In the spate of new dizi releases for the 2020 / 2021 season, A.Riza distinguishes itself for some fine acting, excellent direction and production, and an excellent script. Tolga Saritas, an experienced actor of action dizis, stars in the role of Ali Riza Altai, while Ayca Aysin Turan, well known for her dramatic roles, stars as Halide Gurkan. While it is directed by Recal Karagoz, the script comes from Ozan Aksungur and the series airs on Sunday night on Show TV.
The significance is not incidental that the protagonist’s name, Ali Riza, resembles the title so closely nor that “ariza” means “fault ” in Turkish. The viewer easily concludes that the story is going to be about him and his fault for getting involved in something he could have walked away from. However, it becomes clear from the episode that Ali Riza is a principled, honorable human being who could never leave a young woman to suffer bodily injury.
ALI RIZA ALTAI & BURAK ERSOYLU
Ali Riza Altai comes from a very traditional, religious Turkish family with roots in the Caucasus region. His father has died and he, as the oldest son, has helped his mother, Rukiye, raise his two sisters and one brother. He drives a taxi for a living and he works tirelessly to provide for his family without complaint. His motto is to put his family first. More importantly, he never begrudges his sacrifices. He is content to be able to look after his family and takes pride in them the way a good father would. When asked by a neighborhood lawyer, Fusun Yilmaz, what he plans to do once the responsibility of his youngest sister is over, he informs her that he has never made plans for himself. He is kind, stalwart and good natured ; the epitome of a decent man. As the family prepares for Mert, the younger son’s return from the army, in time for the younger sister, Nihan’s wedding, an unfortunate event on Ali Riza’s evening shift changes the lives of his happy family and him, personally, forever. As folk wisdom states, “a whole year cannot bring the misfortune that just one second can bring.”
The episode begins on a stormy night as Ali Riza stands with gun aimed before a man we will later learn is Burak Ersoylu. There is no dialogue; only Ali Riza’s narration, as he shares his thoughts with the viewers that while revenge is something you extract from an enemy, it is something you do for yourself. The action stops and the plot takes the audience fifteen days back in time, allowing them to understand the circumstances.
In complete contrast with the dark scenes of the opening, the viewer is treated to the radiant face of Rukiye Altai as she prepares breakfast, all the time thinking of her daughter’s upcoming wedding. We meet the smiley face of her son, Ali Riza, as he jokes with and embraces his mother. He plays tricks on his about to be married sister. The scenes depicted from the friendly neighborhood of the Altai family are bright, joyous and normal. Wedding preparations are in the making and being finalized for Nihan and Ferit’s wedding. We meet Ali Riza’s work colleagues, friends and the head of the taxi depot, Hasan. There is no disharmony anywhere.
By contrast, the next scenes bring the viewer face to face with a different world. One where young mafiosi ride in a loud and reckless manner as they prepare to blackmail a man by beating him. The shots of the neighborhood they pass through are filmed from the window of the jeep: quick images of daily life whizzing by at 60 kph. After Burak Ersoylu takes care of his bloody business, he goes to wake up his brother, Murat, who is sleeping off his drunkenness. The two must attend a birthday party which is being held at their family home. The viewer quickly senses that Murat does not embrace their underworld dealings with equal relish and satisfaction as his brother, Burak.
While two distinct worlds are being drawn for the viewer to compare, so two men also are being regarded, contrasted and readied for conflict. Where Burak Ersoylu is a symbol of arrogance, brutality, inhumanity, selfishness and obsessive love, Ali Riza Altai represents the devoted father / brother figure with diametrically opposite personality traits to those of Burak. In short order, the episode marks out the roles of protagonist and antagonist
Burak and Murat are expected at a birthday celebration being given by their father, Fuat Ersoylu, in honor of Hasmet Gurkan. Eight years before, Hasmet bestowed his mafia kingdom unto Fuat. Following the murder of his wife and two sons, Hasmet has withdrawn into his grief and he has stayed out of mafia business. The day of his birthday party, he goes in person to the airport to pick up his one surviving child, Halide.
Halide has become a doctor and she works in the Turkish countryside glad to be helping the people of small communities. At the birthday party honoring Hasmet, Burak intends to propose to Halide with whom he is in love. Murat tries to warn his brother not to expect a positive answer from Halide. During this conversation, Murat discovers Burak still carries in his pocket a necklace with a diamond infinity symbol. Murat admonishes his brother for carrying it around for eight years. As Halide and Burak converse, Burak reaches into his pocket to bring out an engagement ring but Halide prevents him from proposing. Halide runs from the party, leaving behind a shattered Burak.
FATE, CHOICE, FAULT
As fate has it, Halide jumps into a taxi belonging to Ali Riza, which is parked at the taxi stand. Although Ali Riza explains that he is on a food break, her insistence convinces him to take her fare. However, before he can start, Burak, having followed Halide, opens the taxi’s door and tries to extricate her. As a quarrel ensues between Halide and Burak and Halide is hurt, Ali Riza feels compelled to intervene.
When the bodyguards try to beat on Ali Riza, he successfully neutralizes them and defends himself against Burak who finds himself stunned both literally and figuratively by Ali Riza. Halide tells Ali Riza that she does not need hospitalization and she explains that she is a doctor. He ministers to her head wound and in their conversation she tells him that he needs to disappear from Istanbul for a few days while things subside as she knows that Burak will respond maniacally towards Ali Riza for the disgrace he has received at the hands of a taxi driver. Ali Riza explains that he cannot possibly comply as his younger sister is getting married in two days and he cannot miss her wedding. To Ali Riza, his sister is more like his child than his sibling and no parent misses a daughter’s wedding. Anyway, he points out to Halide, he is not the kind of man who runs away, as he has proven.
Upon learning of the incident the next day, Hasan (head of the taxi depot) explains just who Burak Ersoylu is and tries to convince Ali Riza to disappear. Ali Riza gives the same explanation to Hasan that he gave to Halide. For this reason, Hasan orders that the local men be ready in case Burak tries to create trouble on the wedding day. From her part, Halide approaches her Aunt Melek’s husband, Mithat, still active in mafia activities, to keep Burak from doing anything crazy. Unfortunately, her Uncle Mithat holds a grudge towards Fuat Ersoylu and Hasmet so instead of helping, he exacerbates the situation even more by releasing a video clip on social media of Ali Riza humiliating Burak and his men.
When the video goes viral, Burak’s rage cannot be contained. The beating he took at the hands of a “lowly taksici”, combined with Halide’s rejection, is an unbearable blow to Burak’s ego. Burak orders his right hand man, Fikret, to find out everything about Ali Riza and his family. As every viewer senses, the die has been cast at this point. No one can foresee the kind of tragedy which will occur.
The episode has many memorable scenes which capture the audience in the most profound ways ; emotionally, thematically. All scenes are artistically directed and produced but those which stand out as most significant are the family scenes as the bride leaves her home and the Lezginka dance at the reception.
The audience knows instinctively that something will happen at the wedding. As the day of the wedding dawns, the scenes concentrate on the festive atmosphere and the viewers are lulled into forgetting the possible danger. All are concentrating on the excitement of the bride in her perfect dress, the relatives in their finest, the performance of traditions from their native lands, the prayer before the bride is given to her groom. The audience swells with pride and happiness just like the family as they bask in the perfection of the events. The director appears to freeze the moment as he distances the family from the couple. The zenith is reached when Nihan asks her brother, Ali Riza, to dance with her. She wants to thank him for providing her with such a wonderful childhood, for giving her everything and never making her feel guilty about asking. She thanks him for the fabulous wedding.
As is their custom, they dance the Lezginka, a dance from the Caucasus together. As if the world cannot accept too much happiness and the tears have to flow, the director juxtaposes an incredible orchestration of dance, music, dialogue and image with the black cavalcade of mafia filled cars.The Lezginka doesn’t stop, the beating of the drums and the pipes continues, a scuffle begins, tension erupts from the men and a bullet finds a target. The audience watches the frenzy back and forth between the dancing and the struggling with a hollow stomach, a dry mouth and no breath !
Another absolutely wrenching scene is Ali Riza’s speech in front of Fuat Ersoylu at Fuat’s office the day before Burak’s court appearance. He arrives at Fuat’s office and stands before him with the face of a grieving father. He tells Fuat that if he does not want to feel the same pain which he, Ali Riza, is feeling, he must allow his son to be punished by the courts. His slightly trembling lips and moderated, determined voice accompany the heavily hooded eye lids which cover half the pupils of his soul. All light is gone from his irises. Only opacity is left.
Halide is pitiable after the tragedy too. She feels guilt, isolation, as if it is her fault that she got into Ali Riza’s taxi. Although everyone in the Altai family is politely allowing her presence, their message is undeniable. They want her to disappear from their sight. Hasan is the only one who shows understanding. He serves to give her much needed advice and perspective. He points out the differences between fate and choice in a person’s life. Fate cannot be controlled but the choices people make in response to their fate are controllable. He asks her to think who has pulled the trigger. He tells her that fate brought her to Ali Riza’s cab. He explains how she had no control over that. However, now she will have to make choices for which she will be accountable.
As she ponders their conversation, Halide makes a discovery that shocks her. During the scuffle the night of the wedding, Burak loses the infinity necklace he has carried. Ali Riza’s colleague finds it where Burak has fired his gun. Not knowing who it belongs to, he hangs it on a hook in the taxi depot. Halide collapses when she sees it as she remembers her lost infinity necklace. Clutching the necklace, she is reminded of how she came to be without the necklace.
She relives how eight years before masked men stopped their car, shot and killed all but Halide and one of the masked men ripped her diamond infinity necklace from her neck. This necklace had been gifted to her by her mother when she was a child as her name, Halide, signifies infinity. What choices will Halide make in response to these fateful events ?
After the tragedy at the wedding, Burak has been arrested. His father is able to make one of Burak’s men say the shot came from his gun. As ballistics supports this, Burak is let out of jail until the trial. So the episode comes full circle in terms of time. Ali Riza has arrived at the mansion where Burak is staying to extract his revenge. Earlier in the episode, Halide has a discussion with her father about the loss of their family and he declares to her that man has a need to protect his children and his wife. He explains that pain changes a man. When Hasmet says these words to his daughter, he is talking about himself. However, after this fateful tragedy in the life of Ali Riza, the viewer cannot help but to draw parallels between Hasmet, who has lost his wife and sons, and Ali Riza. What choices will both of them make in response to fate?
A WORTHY WATCH
Judging from this first episode, A.Riza is strongly recommended. Without a doubt, the acting is stellar as every character lives their respective roles. Tolga is brilliant in these strong, action type roles. The writer’s focus on him as a father figure in the story is quite interesting as is the more realistic absence of a love at first sight angle from the first episode. Ayca Aysin Turan seems to have transformed her entire body to fit her role as a sensitive, inwardly broken yet determined young doctor. The music is electrifying and in complete harmony with the action on the screen while the direction of all scenes is pure art, especially those mentioned above. Quite refreshing for the viewer is the choice by the production company to film in some new or renewed sets and at different locations than ones viewers are used to. Equally interesting is that the Caucasus area of Turkey is being featured. International viewers have probably not seen a lace doily held by the bride in weddings nor the performance of the Lezginka dance.
The first episode has been successful in setting the stage for a dizi about how people deal with the misfortunes of life and how people are changed by them. As fate has brought Halide and Ali Riza together, it will be interesting to see what choices they will make in view of the conflicts and what consequences will follow as a result. A.Riza is a worthy watch on Sundays!
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Joan Hiver
Author: Joan Hiver is a retired English Literature Professor who has taught English Literature at both secondary school and university levels. For many years Joan also served on the Board of Directors of an International Private School. At the moment, she is trying her hand on writing a children’s book. A native of Canada , Joan moved to the United States after her marriage. She is the mother of three children. Joan discovered the Turkish dizi when she and her family lived in Europe. Besides being a die-hard fan of Turkish dizis since 2006, she enjoys sewing, needlepoint, gardening, cooking and detective fiction of any kind.
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