The good thing is that I am once again hooked to Zindagi Channel – the one that airs Pakistani TV Serials (now nomore). But this time it is the Turkish Serial “Fatmagul”which has caught my fancy. Dubbed in Hindi, it is one of the best TV serials that I have watched in a very long time, aired on Zindagi, Prime Time 08.45 PM (changed to 09.00 PM) to 10.00 PM.
Fatmagul, an innocent and beautiful village girl from Ildir (in the province of Izmir) is betrothed to Mustafa the handsome fisher boy. She stays with her loving brother , Rahami and cunning sister-in-law Mukaddes. Kerim Ilgaz, the adopted son of Meryem Aksoy, known affectionately as “Ebe Nine” (“Granny Ebe”), is also attracted towards Fatmagul. Kerim is apprenticed to the village blacksmith while his mother is the village hakim. The richest and the most influential businessman of Izmir, Reşat Yaşaran’s son Selim is going to get married to Melteme, the daughter of a powerful politician, Turaner Alagöz. Kerim is friendly with Selim and his cousin Erdoğan. After Selim’s engagement, all three of them along with a common friend, Vuraal, get high on drinks and drug. That night Fatmagul sets off to meet her fiance Mustafa who is leaving for the high seas for fishing. On her way, she is accosted by Kerim and his friends. In a Bohemian mood , Fatmagul is raped by Selim, Erdogan and Vuraal while Kerim looks on. Next morning, a devastated Fatmagul is found in the fields by Ebe Nine who reports the matter to the local police.
The news spreads like wild fire. Mustafa’s family breaks their son’s engagement with Fatmagul. Mukaddes, Fatmagul’s sister-in-law, takes advantage of the situation and starts blackmailing the Yasarans whose name and prestige are now at stake, more so, because they are on the threshold of being associated with a powerful political family by way of their son’s marriage. They pressurise Kerim to take the blame upon himself. As he has no recollection of the incident of the previous night, Kerim thinks he is also guilty of the act. In order to protect his friends and assuage his own guilt he agrees to marry Fatmagul. Both Kerim’s and Fatmagul’s family sell their properties and shift base to Istanbul to start a new life. Kerim falls in love with Fatmagul and avows to take care of her. While Selim and Erdogan carry on life as though nothing has happened, its Vuraal who is tortured by nightmares and is unable to pardon himself of the heinous crime that he has committed in a state of intoxication. However, as the name suggests, the televized drama pivots around the psychologically shattered Fatmagul, who tries to cope with her life against all odds and inner dilemmas. Eventually, to prove his love and empathy for her, Kerim lodges a police case against the Yasarans to save Fatmagul’s name and honour. The court case, that follows, takes interesting and unpredictable twists and turns ramifying the age-old struggle of the under-privileged to get justice against the clever manoeuvres of the rich and the powerful.
Does the story ring a bell?
Yes, the story has an incredible universal appeal – innocence versus villainy….exploited versus exploiter….victim versus victimizer. The narrative outlines a plot which is not unknown to the Indian psyche. We have heard and seen many such dramas. However, the difference lies in the directorial touch and treatment. The ultra-sensitive portrayal of a girl savagely gang raped and traumatized who pines to lead a normal life, regain faith, nurture dreams and pull on in life, is moving to say the least. Her love-hate relationship with her husband Kerim. Her brave attempts to surmount inner fears and insecurities. Her indomitable spirit which motivates her to educate herself and last but not the least her woman’s heart which pursuades her to fall in love again.
I guess a story teller is always on the lookout for good stories whatever the medium be. With Fatmagul, the stigma attached to soaps that they are just teer jerkers with loose scripts, dragging episodes and dull performances is obviated. It is a multi-layered narration which dwells on uncommon precincts – not only psycho-social rehabilitation of rape victims but also sensitive portrayal of the inner turbulence of the rapist who has unthinkingly given in to the spur of the moment madness in an inebriated state of mind and is in a mode of repentance and self-castigation. However, while portraying the ”other side of the story” nowhere does the Director incline towards justifying or undermining the heinousness of the crime. With similar sensibility, the Director Hilal Saral, frames the desparation of the parents (Yasarans) who leave no stone unturned to save their only son, Selim, from being disgraced and doomed. Their concern is understandable if not appreciable.
Created by Vedat Turkali and written by Ece Yorenc and Melek Gencoglu, Fatmagul boasts of strong, relatable and complex characterizations evolving episodically. Each has his/her own pasts and own personal struggles and weaknesses which ultimately define their carmic path. There is no rigid demarcates of good and evil, black and white or vamp and villain. The note ‘we create our own hells and heavens’ flows through the entire narrative which in itself is a refreshing change in comparison to what our indigenous televisations flood us with. Thus, Kerim’s tireless efforts to woo Fatmagul’s trust and confidence and his, at times, uncontrollable anger at being snubbed by her seem as justifiable as the disturbed state of mind of Selim and Erdogan when they have to spend days in judicial custody with cell mates who hate them because they are charged of rape and those who consider them in their league being perpetrators of similar crime. The most pitiable is, of course, Vuraal who is haunted every moment by his own misdeeds till he is nothing but a living dead. There is a point when you feel sorry for the sinner while hating the sin that he has to carry the curse of.
However, it is Mustafa, the simple village boy transforming, in due course of time, into a shrewd and suave operator taking advantage of every opportunity to put the Yasarans into trouble while working for them and later the Turaners, who notches up villainy to a level of sophistication hitherto unseen and unscaled. Yet his heart longs for his childhood mate Fatmagul whom he is guilty of deserting when she needed him the most. There is a Heathcliffian element in his character sketch which has been brilliantly contemporanized.
And then there is Munir, Selim and Erodgan’s maternal uncle ( mother’s brother) with whom one can easily draw a parallel with Mahabharat’s Shakuni. A parasite who can never be anybody’s friend bleeding the Yasaran’s of their empire and complicating the case against his nephews, he is also their defense lawyer and confidant in crime. Mukeddes (Esra Dermancioglu), Fatmagul’s sister-in-law, is another loud-mouthed gossip and troublemaker who thrives on scandals be it of her own. She is the only character who can make your blood boil and nose cringe with disgust. Her Shashikala-esq wickedness makes her stand apart as a performer in a negative role.
Fatmagul is a fast-paced serial based on a movie by the same name. On its national turf, it had rocked the viewers with its explicit picturization of the rape scene, which for a TV Serial, exclusively meant for family viewing, is a very bold attempt. However, nowhere does it seem unnecessary, imposed or an attempt to sensationalze or gross on bare-dare frames as the script very much requires this pivotal scene to bring forth the brutality and gruesomeness of the misdeed to justify the progression of the drama, the manner in which the story subsequently unfolds and the life changing impact the mishap has on its characters – their trauma, their inner battles, their loneliness, their bottled-up grief and their ocassional joy of achievement. Mainly a Family Drama it has the garnish of gripping narration, tense moments of suspense, thrill of romance and topping of murder mystery. Beren Saat, recipient of numerous awards for her various other performances, as Fatmagul is the rightest choice as she enlivens the character as though it were her own story. Engin Akyurek as Kerim Ilgaz is a heart stopper (I know many who watch this serial just to ogle at him. Needless to say they all belong to the fairer sex). Sumru Yavrucuk as Meryem Aksoy reminds me many a time of our own adorable Farida Jalal. Bugra Gulsoy brings to life Vuraal Namli’s agony on screen to perfection. It will be too lengthy a post to discuss each and every character as they look and feel as real as they can get to be. However, it will be an injustice to the review if no mention is made of the camera work immortalizing the scenic beauty of the countryside and Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey, against the backdrop of which Fatmagul, the girl in her late teens and early twenties grows into a woman of substance. The intelligent use of percussion as the solo instrument for background score to heighten suspense and thrill is novel and scores high on intriguing and engaging the viewers. I am glad, while dubbing the Serial in Hindi, the catchy, croon-worthy folk songs have been left untouched to retain the flavour of the soil giving music lovers a taste of ear soothing world music, which to my mind, transcends the boundaries of language and region.
In the final analysis, this limited-episode serial is as much a mainstream entertainer as it is a social commentary of our times. It is really heartwarming and consoling to find that though we speak different languages, follow different religions and reside in different parts of the globe, yet when it comes to a tale of salt and tears we are one, our values are the same and the adhesive that binds us cohesively with society comprises nothing but of love, care, compassion and humaneness. Thus, howsoever be the divisive forces work day and night to seggregate us, we foreever remain forged to a single fraternity that is humanity.