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A Pakistani drama artist records a scene during shooting of the play “Taan”. —AFP Photo
A Pakistani drama artist records a scene during shooting of the play “Taan”. —AFP Photo
Female Pakistani drama artist Yasmin Huq has her makeup done prior to shooting a scene in the play “Taan”. —AFP Photo
Female Pakistani drama artist Yasmin Huq has her makeup done prior to shooting a scene in the play “Taan”. —AFP Photo
Pakistani director Samar Raza gestures as he talks to AFP during a recording of the play “Taan” in Lahore. —AFP Photo
Pakistani director Samar Raza gestures as he talks to AFP during a recording of the play “Taan” in Lahore. —AFP Photo
Pakistani drama artists rehearse a scene in "Taan". —AFP Photo
Pakistani drama artists rehearse a scene in "Taan". —AFP Photo

LAHORE: Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan's taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series 'Glee'.

Like its smash hit forerunner, 'Taan' follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.

Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the programme was not a “political pulpit”, he is determined to take on the tough issues.

“Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone,” he told AFP. “But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, 'Look, this is what we are'?”

Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.

Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind ‘Taan’ is acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.

In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace - their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.

Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

“Let's say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other,” he said. “So I bring a third character who says: 'God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'.”

It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate. While 70 per cent of Pakistan's population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.

“The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch - they control access to TV,” he told AFP. “You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience.”

In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of ‘Taan’ have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.

“We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out,” Sarwar said.

The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.

Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of “Manahil and Khalil” and “Ishq-e-Mamnu” (Forbidden Love) - Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.

Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of “Ishq-e-Mamnu” has prompted a lively debate about the “Turkish invasion” of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them.

Yasmin Huq, one of the stars of ‘Taan’, told AFP a homegrown show could speak more clearly to Pakistanis than foreign imports.

“Today's generation is watching Turkish and Indian dramas,” she said. “But no one can make a musical story like Pakistanis. Even if you watch the Turkish and Indian dramas, you will see that nobody can talk about Pakistan like Pakistanis.”

Comments (45) Closed

Osama Ashfaq May 28, 2013 03:52pm

I would not go into the religion debate as people link you to Taliban. But Why oh Why do you want to promote unnatural human behaviors? Why do you want to desensitize the young generation? Do people of Pakistan seriously want their children to grow up in such a society where Taboo issues are no longer Taboo? Do we seriously want this? Why?

NMA May 28, 2013 03:54pm

We have no answer to MIT or Yale, no answer to the space shuttle or silicon valley. But dont worry all is well our intellectual elite have come up with an answe to "Glee"!

nocturne May 28, 2013 06:46pm

@NMA: Don't you think that it is necessary to tackle important social issues and have a sincere, rational discussion about them? This show, to me, is an attempt to counter the influence of Islamic extremism and radicalism that has so strongly pervaded all aspects of our society. The very same extremism and radicalism that has propogated and normalized the idea that a scientific worldview is heretical, thus hindering any scientific progress that we might acheive. And god forbid you question anything you find unreasonable!

nocturne May 28, 2013 06:46pm

Don't you think that it is necessary to tackle important social issues and have a sincere, rational discussion about them? This show, to me, is an attempt to counter the influence of Islamic extremism and radicalism that has so strongly pervaded our society. The very same extremism and radicalism that has propogated and normalized the idea that a scientific worldview is heretical. And god forbid you question anything you find unreasonable!

Hussain May 28, 2013 06:59pm

The elite 'brown sahibs' and their infatuation with everything their ex-colonial masters approve.

"Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal."

The Britishers left India decades ago, but they were smart enough to plant the seeds of neocolonialism before departing. They conquered the minds, created forver loyal and serving slaves. Slaves, who still today find anything remotely unsialmic as a sign of enlightenment.

'Kudi na baich, fakeeri mein nam paida kar' - Iqbal

Bushra Salim May 28, 2013 07:49pm

Listen NMA not every Pakistani wants to go to become an engineer or a doctor. I went to Stanford University but I want to make an independent film does it make me a bad person? Who are you to demand career paths for the young? Why in a male dominated society who went to prestigious universities have messed up Pakistan? And all those who liked NMA comment contribute daily to the demise of Pakistan

Mahanoor May 28, 2013 07:57pm

Strange. I never thought Glee was posing any question to other cultures. Glee shows what happens in western society openly, so what made our director think he must stand up and answer. Does'nt he think our society is already corrupted enough that audience now have to watch gay romance ?

sheraz May 28, 2013 09:23pm

Country was already going in the wrong direction and these great people though of one more way to push it faster into destruction. Aazab phir kyun na aye gaa. Sabb say zayata aazab kumay loot per aa'ya tha.

zain May 28, 2013 09:57pm

"Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men"

What is this?another sick twisting mind stunt by the liberal fascist elite minority. May 28, 2013 10:20pm

@NMA: Well said. And, funny thing is not really answering, just imitating/copying. Answering would utilize brain and we are kind of brain-dead people.

Do we really care to bring out our point of view in light of our own culture, traditions and above all, what Allah wants? Don't listen to any moulvi or scholar. Just read Quran with translation in language you understand and ponder. You will find the way, Insha-Allah ...

ali May 28, 2013 10:29pm


Well said. These guys are morally bankrupt.

Basit Ijaz May 28, 2013 10:50pm

There are so many more interesting and appealing stories out there. This topic picked by the producer/director is a non-issue for Pakistanis. If they have any interest in same sex relations then make a play on child abuse, which is more prevalent in our society. Thousands of children suffer from this humiliation.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE May 29, 2013 09:14am

The people of Sodom were destroyed earlier for this behaviour. Anything in the extreme is bad, even enquiring things which have been forbidden by the creator. May Allah guide us.

Wajeeh May 29, 2013 09:39am

Our society is already laced with every type of immoral behaviors, and this series instead of showing some positive things, good moral values presenting gay romance though its existence in our society cannot be denied but open publicity cannot be approved at all. Very Sad. I don't know whom you are serving by doing this.

Ammara Blouch May 29, 2013 11:46am

Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of

Naseer May 29, 2013 11:55am

My question is what is the need for making such show, it is not necessary that whatever the west does is always right, the example is gay marrige and romance, this law is even controversial in USA and Eruope, because there are people who are still against this unnatural sex, then what is the need to attract people towards something which is absolutely illogical, there is no sign of sensibility in gay romance, even scientifically, medically and naturally gay physical interaction is not recommended and is harmful. but still we are making efforts to generalize this idea in muslim countries, actually we have missed the trick here, we generally believable if we imitate west, we will develop, but the problem is that we dont follow west in those areas where they work hard for their betterment, instead we look to try live their type of social life which does not suit our society at all, and then we land up in a position where we become confused and do not understand how to live, because west type social life is not practical in our countries. why we dont make shows that tell people how west developed, what they do in different sectors of life, what kind of work approach they have and how much hardworking they are, what kind of technologies they use and how can we follow their path of development, these kind of shows will education and motivate the youth to have desire for development and progress. but if we keep them busy in introducing new varieties in romance, because they are already having over dose of romance and errotic type of stuff, now these kind of shows will guide them towards something new, which they cannot manage and eventually these kind of concepts will pave the way for more sex related crimes.

Shuu May 29, 2013 12:48pm

ew why copy one of the most annoying shows on TV?

Glee sucks so bad, now there will be a worse version in Urdu lol

Couldn't they have chosen something cooler to copy?

kultof azazel May 29, 2013 01:06pm

I have always failed to understand why Pakistanis fail to reason basic..simple things out. The reason the Pakistan is in shambles today is coz of hatred...hatred of anything that does not belong /align with the majority of Pakistan. Pakistan has some of the finest brains that I had a chance to interact with but the majority is not ready to even think over the basics. There are people calling gay love unnatural, why we so called conservative societies hell bent on telling people whom to love and not. We are the very same society which believes sex between two consulting adults in love is haram even in a heterogeneous relationship but yes the moment you get married you ought to do it coz then its unnatural not to have sex even though that would be the first time you set eyes on the other person....I think this is more animal like. Long story short we as people, societies need to more tolerant even though there are things we can not comprehend, relate understand or are even offended by. Lets not hate coz its not the homos and gays which are going to lead to the extinction of mankind but hate...pure unadulterated halal hate.

Shafiq Khan May 29, 2013 02:07pm

@Osama Ashfaq: Why do you think it "unnatural" ? Why are you not willing to look at the science of the issues and see where the truth lies. How do you decide what is natural? Isn't it time to really really face the truth. You are on the fore front, where the use of all the products of science are concerned. Why not give it a try and see what the facts are where the medicine and science has moved up to.

nav May 29, 2013 02:58pm

@Osama Ashfaq: Do yu know-The male prostitution is one of the highest in Pakistan Why ?.No point on hiding from the real facts.Hiding behind the taboos puts the problem under the carpet but does not eradicate it.. Just move on with life.People watch much more on internet now than on TV

Reader May 29, 2013 05:52pm

@Shafiq Khan: Answer is simple God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

Mechatron May 29, 2013 06:29pm

@NMA: Spot on NMA - I fail to understand why our so called "intellect" only go for copying and answering Hollywood / Bollywood domains. Why not Silicon Valley?

Mechatron May 29, 2013 06:35pm

@Bushra Salim: You have every right to make a movie - but I would suggest there are a 100 steps of important social issue before embarking on "promotion of legalisation of homo relations". It some what show the intentions of the movie maker, not sincerety to the society.

Malik May 29, 2013 09:43pm

this is what happens , when your airways being sponsored by multinationals, these guys give you plot , script and huge money to make such dramas, and then give guarantees to the TVs for sponsorship, they occupy the airspace simply they have more resources to fund it, now bare in mind they get enormous tax benefits from their govts to run such covert operations on their behalf,

now the technical part to understand it, if the real drama time is 60 minutes and the drama runs for 30 mins and thirty mins advertisement runs between dramas again fully representative of western culture and actually push you to see , conceive and deliver it whole 60 minutes doesn't belongs to you, your society. your culture, your problems and your preferences,, this whole 60 minutes period belongs to them

my questions is what have you got from that 60 minutes knowingly that the next 60 minutes coming almost similar or in some case same with different team but by same sponsor ?

Khayyam May 30, 2013 02:28am


You rightly pointed out that the existence of "gay romance" in our society cannot be denied. Yet you insist on prohibiting "open publicity" of this issue on the basis of safeguarding what you see as the interests of public morality. Is it not immoral that thousands of Pakistani's are shunned, ridiculed, and humiliated for their nature?

Even if you believe that homosexuality is a choice or that homosexual behavior is immoral, no societal issue has ever been solved by pretending that it doesn't exist. Keep that in mind the next time you advocate censoring speech merely because you don't agree with its message.

pak May 30, 2013 08:45am

If I am a Muslim... then homosexuality, bisexuality, swinging, extra-marital sex, pornography, orgies etc. are off-limits for me just like drinking, gambling, theft, robbery, bribery, rape, murder etc., even if I live in a non-Islamic republic like the US or UK... the existence of any of the above in the Pakistani society is not justification enough to deem it O.K. for all Muslims of Pakistan or Muslims at large. Instead of making efforts to introduce legislation against the Muslims violating limits set by Islam, this country's "educated" youth is promoting ideas contradictory to Islamic teachings as if we live in the USA.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE May 30, 2013 10:08am Sure as Allah has promised to guide an individual who seeks HIS guidance.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE May 30, 2013 10:14am

@Ammara Blouch: Islam forbids extremes in general either as westernised liberals or bigotted mullahs. Islam guides us towards the path of Muhammad (SAW). A path between extremes in all matters. That is why Islam is called the path of the middle. We should read the Quran with its translation so as to understand it and Allah has promised to guide one who seeks HIS guidance in HIS book.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE May 30, 2013 10:18am

@Osama Ashfaq: Islam provides the guidance for mankind. It does not matter if people label it as Taliban or whatever. The people gave so many labels to our prophet (saw) but he did not waver. So each of us should read and understand the Quran to seek guidance from it and be steadfast. Islam is destined to prevail as Allah has promised in the Quran. Just be patient and persistent, it is the only way for mankind's salvation here and the hereafter. Oh people do not go the way in which people of Sodom went. That is the path of sin and destruction.

IBN-E-ASHFAQUE May 30, 2013 10:20am

@Shafiq Khan: Allah has forbidden it and promised serious punishment as he bestowed on the people of Soddom. May Allah guide me and you on the correct path.

United States of India May 30, 2013 11:50am

@Reader: Thats what you believe! Being gay is NOT a choice... it's by birth. With no disrespect had you had one of your own near one & dear one in the same state, i'm sure you wouldn't have commented. The masses of the subcontinent needs some education with regards to homosexuality, rather than turning back & claiming it unnatural... Afterall we're all creation of god... Spare a thought guys before commenting. Thank you!

Rafiq May 30, 2013 11:58am

There was a time in 70's and 80's , where our dramas were setting trends based on the real substance of the stories derived from big social and cultural issues. Like other facets of life, we are facing bankruptcy here as well as we are copying blindly Indian media and the West. Undoubtedly there will always be issues like this in 180 M population including other things like incest etc but are these same in order of magnitude like West ? They have now legalised homosexuality because it is big enough a subject for them to give it legal status ? Is it worth spending your time on issues in the name of "drawing line on the sand" as the writer said and telling where we stand ? Would you like to see and discuss these issues with your mother, father, sister and brother and say oh because filth is just one stroke of key away from internet so let us all 'grow up" and because we are forward looking, educated, creme de la creme of the society so what the hell - let us discuss it in over cup of coffee. Sorry guys, i think this should be detested in no uncertain words.

Kshitij May 30, 2013 12:56pm

What is strange about "love affair between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl". It obviously goes like this - The Taliban extremist falls in love with the Christian girl, abducts her and forcefully converts her to Islam, her parents run from pillar to post and knock on various court's doors to prove that their daughter had be kidnapped, the girl appears in court with dozens of armed hoodlums and gives a statement that she has done it on her own will, a celebration breaks out and they live happily ever after. It would have been Taboo if a Christian boy would have fallen in love with a muslim girl and she converted to Christianity to marry him.

Sharam kero May 30, 2013 02:06pm

@Shafiq Khan: Because it IS unnatural. Study the human anatomy if you dont believe me, Einstein.

MBA May 30, 2013 02:07pm

A couragous plan. Wish you a lot of energy. Please be carefull - for your team and also for the "collateral effects" on the society. It is a real pleasure to see some sort of a social movement againt the so-called "Islamists". I have difficulty to understand, how anyone can consider these murderers and drug dealers as religous persons. Anyway. Good luck and get going.

Ali Abbas May 30, 2013 08:53pm

Mr suo moto will find an excuse to cancel this show, a right wing nut will run to the courts claiming an assault on Islamic values and mr. Iftikhar will oblige. If this does happen then don't forget that Punjab has just elected a guy from Raiwind and he will come to rescue his right wing base.

Ali Abbas May 30, 2013 08:56pm

@Reader: Last I checked God also created Adam and Steve. I am not sure why your religion and your sexuality is affected what Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve do in privacy of their own home.

Ali Abbas May 30, 2013 08:57pm trust me Allah is not on same page as you and your fellow talibans.

Ali Abbas May 30, 2013 08:59pm

@nocturne: Don't waste your breath on this person.

rationalist May 30, 2013 09:41pm

@nocturne: Read the Quran!

Concerned May 30, 2013 11:41pm

@Sharam kero: Its not a matter of believing you. Why don't you ACTUALLY study "human anatomy" and enlighten us if you find anything anything to support your premise.


And if Allah is Almighty, and THE Creater, then let us be sure, that he created Homosexuality. There are Gay men and women, because Allah created Gay men and Women. And homoesexuality is also known in other mamals, including penguins, and even dolphins!


And incidentially, to other self-proclaimed Experts on Islam, no where does in Quran is the existence of Gay people denied. Gay sex is forbidden like any other form of sex outside of a marriage. Quran forbids "the sin of the People of the Lot." (Al-Baqrah) It does Not say that gays don't exist. Because Allah created them and they do.


Besides, this drama is not about Gay sex. It seems to me like it's about our society, and there are gays in our society. Keep it simple people. Don't go over your head, putting Islam everywhere.

ctkan May 31, 2013 02:24am

'Taliban extremist falling in love with a beautiful christian girl'???? are you kidding me??? what kind of c*%#p is this... ya keep living in this liberal bubble of yours

mahanoor May 31, 2013 05:17am

@Bushra Salim: Pls choose a sane subject except for Gay relationship - you have your free will to make one on this topic but rest assured it will be a wrong career move. In subcontinent people still adore topics like "Dil Walay Dulhaniya Lay Jaingay" and NOT "Dulhon ki jori pay dhol bajainGAY"

Ernest Bowen May 31, 2013 07:38am

Hello Mr Sarwar why did you put a Christian girl with the Taliban, why not a inocent Muslim girl from the same village is to brake the taboo in Pakistan, or to promote Taliban Islam in Pakistan, would be nice if you would have goen for a inocent muslim girl, then a beautiful Christian girl

Bhaijan May 31, 2013 07:55am

Isn't Pakistan supposed to be a Muslim country? Doesn't Islam condemn Homosexuality? Weren't the People of Prophet Lut (AS) destroyed in their entirety due to being homosexuals? If yes, then why do these 'Muslims' want Homosexuality to be considered acceptable? Who are these people trying to please? Allah or the West?