by Tashfa Chilwan
Aşk Laftan Anlamaz (love cannot be understood by words) is a 2017 RomCom starring the then rising stars, Hande Erçel and Burak Deniz. The love story revolves around two people Hayat (meaning ‘Life’) and Murat (meaning ‘Wish’) who meet through one of the most common tropes in Turkish RomComs – a case of mistaken identity.
It is the first dizi I ever watched and it played a pivotal role in how I got immersed in the dizi world. However, a story that I found enchanting at first glance took on different interpretations once I had watched many more and thought deeper about the central messages portrayed through the plot and characters. This article is an exploration of the journey of watching such a story and what we can take from them.
The story starts with our female lead desperate to find a job as her mother has come from the countryside to take her back with her and Hayat doesn’t want to leave her city life. On the other hand, the male lead lands in Istanbul after a business trip (in a helicopter of course!). He is the head and director at his family’s fashion house business, ‘Sarte’. Murat’s grandmother is hell bent on getting him married and so his family sets up a woman named Suna to take a job at the company. Hayat also comes to Sarte for a job interview and is coincidentally in the same elevator with Suna and Murat’s secretary. During the short ride, the secretary starts ranting about how difficult it is to work with Murat, which gives Suna cold feet. Hastily, she leaves her resume there and Hayat takes the resume and accidentally presents it as her own during the interview.
The secretary assumes Hayat is Suna and gives her the job since she had already been instructed to do so. For Hayat this seems a golden opportunity as she is getting paid more and decides to go along with the case of mistaken identity. Little does she know that the guy she just met, and despised, is her boss.
ELEMENTS OF A ROMCOM
There are certain cliched elements that make a romcom watchable. Good acting notwithstanding, a dramatic conflict between the lead pair, a reasonably relatable plot line, a sprinkling of comic characters, and a few other such tropes are necessary ingredients. What makes a romcom exceptional are showing lead characters with layered personalities who go through some character growth together and/or individually, blended with great on-screen chemistry between the pair.
How does Aşk Laftan Anlamaz fare against these metrics?
OVERALL PLOT AND STORY – DATED BUT A GUILTY PLEASURE
Aşk Laftan Anlamaz aired on TV a month after the famed Kiralik Aşk (2015 – 2017) came to an end. Kiralik Aşk, with two seasons and 69 episodes, created its own new RomCom subgenre with having the leads fall in love despite having one of the pair withhold a big lie from her partner. However, the execution is vastly different and whereas Kiralik Aşk is now considered a classic in diziland, Aşk Laftan Anlamaz does not enjoy the same branding.
The overall story seems dated for 2017, with some of the tropes overdone, and the series hasn’t aged well either. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Aşk Laftan Anlamaz is an absolute guilty pleasure for many of its viewers. Such stories are not meant to be taken seriously and one cannot analyze it logically. One of the only reasons this show is pleasurable to watch is because of the main pairing. But that is where the problem also lies. The relationship is not healthy, even toxic in many ways, and one accepts that the toxicity is salvaged only because the main leads actually look so good with each other. This is a point to ponder for those of us who still seek refuge in stories like this.
THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN THE TWO LEADS
Burak Deniz and Hande Erçel have one of the best onscreen chemistries in diziland. Period.
Whether it was my first time watch or a multiple re-watch of this series, these two are just delicious together. Their pairing is the heart and soul of this dizi and makes it near watchable for anyone yearning for a romantic dizi.
The makers of this show were so confident about these two together that the initial teaser focused on their sexual tension to set the tone for the drama. Regardless of their problematic onscreen relationship, these two know they make a hot couple and know how to set the screen ablaze.
The show is enjoyable if only these two are romancing our screens!
THE MALE LEAD – ROMANTIC OR PROBLEMATIC
When I first watched Aşk Laftan Anlamaz, I remember absolutely swooning over Murat in the first half of the series (precisely, up till ep.14), but from then on his character arc went downhill. When I rewatched it, my reaction felt worse because it was only the second time around did I understand how toxic and a jerk Murat is. From the get go, he orders people around him the way he wants, makes sure that what he says is followed and he can react however he wants if his sweet little ego is hurt.
A lot of viewers defend his change in behavior after the whole big truth comes out, but that doesn’t make him a saint for what he does to Hayat. Hayat is wrong for lying and continuing the role play but, in his anger, Murat’s actions are also wrong. The subtle acceptance and/or validation of such poor behavior goes to the core of our social conditioning where we seem to be more forgiving of men.
THE FEMALE LEAD – SELFISH AND OVERBEARING
Hayat’s character is problematic from the beginning. Her story starts with her being desperate for work and out of that desperation, she lies, adopts another identity due to a mistake to take a job that is not meant for her, all because she is offered a high salary.
When I first watched the dizi, what stood out most about the character was how fashionable our female lead is with a decent comic timing. On my rewatch, I could see the unbearable character arc beyond her fashionista persona. Hayat very easily lies about her life to her co-workers, uses her friends whenever she needs them because she is going through a supposedly existential crisis and, the cherry on top, she keeps up the fake identity despite falling in love and getting engaged to Murat.
Being the main female character, the audiences should be rooting for her but instead she becomes an unlikeable character that is sold to the viewers as a bubbly and chirpy chick without a trustworthy personality. This type of character building, where the flaws are hidden under a glossy veneer, feeds the stereotype of a female who deserves what’s coming to her. Thankfully, many of the female leads in contemporary RomComs in diziland are shown to have stronger personalities.
THE SUPPORTING CAST – GLIMMER OF SUNSHINE
Turkish RomComs thrive on a cast of supporting characters who provide comic relief, intrusion, villainy, fixtures for the plot or the conscience for our lead characters. Successful shows have a supporting cast that one can enjoy beyond the arcs for the leads. In this series as well there are several characters who complement the story being told by Hayat and Murat.
The Support System
Hayat’s customary posse of friends, Ipek and Asli, are the pillar of support for our female lead throughout the dizi. Ipek is the no nonsense friend who is brutal with her honesty and, in retrospect, she is the only sane character in the show.
Asli, on the other hand, is the clumsy but kind friend who is more of a mother hen in the group. In her portrayal, it will be an understatement to say that there are times she is very irritating to listen to because she is written as a fused tube light that takes time to understand things.
Kerem. Doruk is the younger playboy brother who doesn’t take life seriously and is not a bit interested in the family business. It is refreshing to see a close bond instead of animosity between the half-brothers. To say the least, it’s the only character that has some substantial and satisfactory character growth from being lazy man-child to being a responsible adult. Kerem, on the other hand, is used more for the comic relief in the dizi without really having an intriguing character arc.
Tuva is the head designer of Sarte and an unofficial love guru. If there is any character that I enjoyed the most it is definitely everyone’s favorite Tuval. Even though her character is put in for comic relief, she has so much personality and depth of traits, that I wanted a friend just like or, best, be like her. She is optimistic, bashful, reliable, independent and a total ray of sunshine. Whenever she is on screen, I watch it with full attention without skipping a single second. She has some of the funniest scenes and lines in the dizi. Tuval is the conscience and that person in the show who makes our characters realize their inner feelings and is a source of motivation to them.
The typical meddling adult, Murat’s grandmother Azime, is like every other elderly person in a dizi who encourages and also pokes their finger in the lives of their grandchildren. She constantly pecks Murat to get married and, later on the series, she is the only supportive member for Hayat. Some of her funniest scenes involve her badmouthing and confronting her daughter-in-law whenever she gets the opportunity. Her character also involves a very awkward twist that is unexpected but it is unconventionally cute (hint – it involves Hayat’s grandfather).
Doruk’s mother, and Murat’s step-mother, Derya can be labelled as the main antagonist for the show as she wants her son to take over Sarte instead of Murat. She plays the vicious vampy character we have seen in endless dizis. And since the mother-figure cannot carry out her villainy by her lonesome, we have Didem who plays Murat’s ex, who is a model and the dumb chick whose only goal in life is to win Murat’s heart.
Hayat’s mother, aunt (also house caretaker), and brother play secondary characters that don’t really do much for the plot. It is interesting that it is Hayat’s side of the family who plays second fiddle to all the drama being enacted by the more colorful characters in Murat’s more illustrious family. Murat’s secretary remains largely invisible.
The Other Romances
Other than our leads, the dizi also has some cutesy side couples as well. Ipek and Kerem fall in love at first sight and goes on to have the healthiest relationship in the dizi.
Asli and Doruk start out as platonic friends but realize their feelings eventually. Our girl Tuval also has a romance of her own with Hayat’s brother Cemil, even though I wish they looked better together!
And finally there is a surprise couple with an unusual and welcome story arc, that I leave to you to discover should you ever watch the show.
Burak Deniz broke out in the dizi scene with this show. Although his character is not well written, he oozes the charm needed in a rom com male lead.
Hande Erçel tries to ace the comic timing, sometimes rather poorly, but her screen presence is something to talk about. This is her second dizi with a leading role and highlights the reason she commands choice roles in diziland despite having debatable acting skills. Hande knows how to project herself on screen, and this blends well with her off-screen persona as well as her interactions with her impressive fan base.
A performance that I want to highlight is that of Demet Gül’s as Tuval. She breathed life into a character created merely for comedy and yet manages to leave the viewer with a lasting impression.
Aşk Laftan Anlamaz seems to have all the elements of a decent romcom but due to the toxicity of the relationship between the lead pair, the story hasn’t stood the test of time. There are many such stories in diziland. What at first glance seems funny, over time seems unacceptable for a relationship. One cannot model aspects of a real relationship on what is shown.
When I rewatched Aşk Laftan Anlamaz 6 years after I had first watched it, my perceptions and tolerance for certain story arcs had changed. However, the on screen chemistry and the beauty of the leads make it an easy initiation into diziland and I don’t regret being drawn into this world through Aşk Laftan Anlamaz . For those of you who have never watched a dizi may still enjoy this as your first watch or if you are looking for a glittering pair who are easy on the eyes, Aşk Laftan Anlamaz certainly delivers.
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