The massively popular Turkish TV series starring Akin Akinozu is getting some new blood, and just in time! The series’s director Cem Karci is leaving Hercai, citing exhaustion and difficult working conditions as part of his decision! We can certainly sympathize with that. The widely watched TV series is filmed almost entirely in Mardin, a province in the southeastern part of Turkey near the Syrian border. The cast and crew have been living in Mardin, away from their homes and families for nearly a year, working 12-16 hour days! And the weather conditions in Mardin don’t help either; blistering cold in winters and sweltering hot in summers. Of course Mardin’s backdrop is perhaps one of the most significant factors in the unique quality of the series, but one can understand the challenges.
Hercai is one of the most watched series on YouTube, having recently received an award for more than 1 million subscribers (it has 2.7 million subscribers currently). The first episode of the series boasts more than 25 million views with episode 4 close behind having more than 18 million views. The series which has been picked up by more than two dozen countries, has fans in almost all corners of the earth from the Middle East to Africa, Europe and the Americas. What’s its secret?
Well, it’s the story dummy! The series tracks a young man’s quest for misguided vengeance. Miran Aslanbey comes to Mardin to seek revenge on the man he believes killed his parents- Hazar Shadoglu. In an elaborate plan, Miran woos the man’s daughter, Reyyan, and marries her. And after their first night together he leaves her in shame (in Mardin’s traditions a dishonored woman is condemned to death). But the story is not so simple. Miran is not aware of the true reason for his revenge nor that Hazar is his real father. This was all an elaborate plan designed by his grandmother to exact vengeance for a deed done long before Miran’s birth. Of course, along the way, Miran falls in love with Reyyan and despite believing her father’s culpability in his parent’s death, pursues her relentlessly. The emotional turmoil and drama experienced by the unlikely couple in season 1 was effectively portrayed through the directorial vision of Cem Karci. Hence the tremendous ratings in Season 1.
However, season 2 has not enjoyed the same high ratings thus far. This in large part is due to some overly dramatic key character shifts and the introduction of certain new unexplained characters. Miran’s cold and calculating character was reduced to an out of control, indecisive, love struck man, and the imposing and brilliant Azize Aslanbey (Miran’s grandmother) was reduced to an irredeemable caricature . The final assault on the series was the introduction of an unknown, almost ominscient party with its henchmen out to reveal some truths of the past and stymie Azize’s efforts. Perhaps the viewing audience was so confused with the combination of these elements and some convoluted plotlines that were too difficult to follow, that many stopped watching. Of course, a director can only work with the script he’s given, and Karci worked valiantly with what he had. In fact, some of the most visually appealing scenes on screen can be found in season 2 of Hercai.
But unfortunately, the lack of focus of the series has taken its toll. A dedicated director such as Cem Karci would certainly find it difficult to work under such circumstances, taking into consideration the sacrifices the cast and crew have to make so far away from home. Perhaps he wanted to leave while the going was good.
Having said that, the story is still good! It’s very good. And when I first started to watch it, I thought it had the potential to be a classic. It can still come close, I’m sure of it. The show has iconic characters in Miran and Azize. The Miran in the first 4 episodes of Hercai was a cold, calculating yet passionate man, whose emotions simmered under the surface. He plotted and planned for years to put in motion an intricate revenge plan. He patiently penetrated the inner circle of his enemy (the Shadoglus) and won over their daughter. And when he was ready, he took vengeance. He also fell in love along the way which made for some extremely sensual and passionate scenes.
The Azize Aslanbey of the first four episodes was an enigmatic, but brilliant matriarch with a deep seeded hatred for the Shadoglus. She harbored a secret from the past which ate away at her. She plotted for 27 years to bring her enemies to justice, but she carried a sense of justice about her that could be understood. Those characters are still possible. It would be easy to chalk off the discrepancies in season 2 to the chaos caused by the unknown third party. A visionary director can certainly work to tighten the story around the secrets of the past and shine the light on the love story.
It appears that Baris Yos who is currently finishing up work on the series, Vuslat, will sit in the director’s seat. Just like every director he will come into the series with his own vision. This is a good thing because the most recent episode of Hercai pivoted the story back towards the original plot. Miran now knows the whole foundation of his revenge was based on lies. The anonymous third party has served its purpose. What will he do next? Will he continue his uncontrolled rampage and whimper indecisively, or will he systematically plot to bring his grandmother to justice. Will Azize continue her ridiculously stubborn and blind assaults on Miran and the Shadoglus, or will she begin to realize the error of her ways? And how will these two characters come to terms with each other? There is much fodder for depth in the series for a visionary director.
And of course, we can’t forget the love story! The screen presence of Akin Akinozu and Ebru Sahin in the first season was explosive. Miran spoke very few words, but his desire and love was on full display in his eyes… in his breathing… And in Reyyan’s eyes you could see the deep sense of wanting mixed with anger and hate. Clearly, our lovers are beyond the hate and uncertainty, but they each have strong characters that can exhibit passion and love.
We’re clearly at a crossroads here and there’s an opportunity to reinvigorate this beautiful story. There are two critical truths yet to be told, and both of them are earth shattering: Miran’s paternity and the real reason for Azize’s revenge. These revelations are sure to bring a flood of emotion and are rife with interesting possibilities. Perhaps the new director will focus on these.
The new Hercai director Baris Yos has an impressive resume having directed such diverse series as Kiralik Ask with Elcin Sangu and Baris Arduc, and Adini Feriha Koydum with Cagatay Ulusoy and Hazal Kaya. His most recent series is Vuslat which is coming to completion on March 9th. I had a chance to see some of the episodes he has directed and I’m impressed. He has an interesting style which evokes emotion from the audience and from the actors he works with. With Hercai he has the cream of the crop to work with. It will be a pleasure to watch him mold the series to his liking.
Change is inevitable, and sometimes change is necessary in order to move forward. We’re waiting in anticipation for Baris Yos’s vision of our beloved series.
Cem Karci on Mardin vs Istanbul
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Copyright by Akin Akinozu North America and North America TEN