Glee, the hit U.S. TV show, has won fans the world over for its ability to tackle the hard issues of adolescence — homosexuality, bullying, teen pregnancy — through the ever-accessible music of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. And it seems Pakistani television producers have taken note. As AFP reports this week, the country will release its own version of the show, “Taan,” this fall. The news agency has more on the 26-episode series, which will include music from artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
“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.
For example, a love affair “between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl” promises to give Rachel and Finn’s tortured romance a run for its money. And even more controversial is a planned story line depicting a gay relationship.
The show’s creators have come up with creative ways to avoid angering authorities. Take the aforementioned plot line of two male lovers. “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,” explains director Samar Raza, particularly since homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan. “So I bring a third character who says: ‘God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ ’’ This third conservative character will theoretically enable Raza to discuss homosexuality while evading censorship.
Concern about censors isn’t the only factor distinguishing Pakistan’s version of “Glee” from its U.S. inspiration. As the Telegraph points out, “Taan” will include a dark side that isn’t exactly applicable to the lives of U.S. tweens:
One of the characters, Annie Masih, is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.
Another story line involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.
Then again, “Glee” hasn’t shied away from the dark side of life, either.