by Shweta S.
Here’s what is most delightful about every popular Romcom – an unlikely combination of characters and circumstances: two people in the throes of a misunderstanding, a meet-cute, a clumsy yet adorable heroine, a misleading love interest, a quaint job, a grand apartment, quirky side characters, kissing in the rain, the eye-opening sweet serendipity moment – all of which ends in the happy-ever-after.
Every romcom is a microcosm of people’s perceptions of relationships in the real world. Although this summer’s menu of seven new and one returning romcom appeared crowded, each one is uniquely spiced. One of them, Aşk Mantık İntikam, has the highest rating, a loyal audience, and it is here to stay.
New Twists to Old Stories
In this remake of the Korean drama, Cunning Single Lady, a young woman, Esra (Burcu Özberk) discovers to her dismay that the fortunes of her ex-husband, whom she had divorced after a long spell of financial struggle, have been recently transformed. He is now rich and successful, while she continues to stagnate in a low paying job. Before she married, Esra single-mindedly strove to avoid mirroring the marriage and life her parents had. Therefore, she let logic dictate her choice of marriage partner, and chose an intelligent, educated man with a stable job and career, the exact opposite of her father, who had been a dreamer and a poor provider. Unfortunately, Esra’s husband, Ozan (Ilhan Sen) did an about turn, and quit his stable job to pursue his dream of developing a software application, ironically striking a parallel with Esra’s father. Esra found herself dragged into the very rut she had desperately tried to escape – working multiple jobs to support them both, while Ozan worked on his project. She soon reached a breaking point. After experiencing myriad emotional and physical hardships without help or support, Esra finally chose to divorce Ozan.
Assumptions, Cluelessness, Ignorance
As the layers of each character unfold, and intriguing details are revealed, the simmering plot bubbles over. The interaction between the lead characters sends sparks flying in every episode, and the dramatic developments leave very little room for boredom, especially since the chemistry between the lead actors keeps everyone enjoyably glued to the screen. Also, the dramatic developments set a brisk pace.
Esra and Ozan meet up again most unexpectedly when Esra is arrested for her involvement in a brawl triggered by snide remarks made about her by some men upon reading an article about Ozan’s success. Although Ozan is left bitter and emotionally scarred by the divorce, he remains utterly clueless about Esra’s sacrifices and her tremendous material and emotional investment in their marriage, prior to the divorce. Esra is furious with Ozan for not acknowledging that he was able to develop his software application only because of her financial and emotional support. Ozan assumes that Esra is planning to make a claim against him and his company, and proceeds to insult her by offering her a lump sum payment if she refrains from doing so. She throws the money back at him and vows revenge.
Through various machinations, Esra obtains an internship with Ozan’s company, thinking she would get close to him and make him fall in love with her again, so he could lament over what he missed. In turn, Ozan wants to make her life at the company as difficult as possible, hoping that her misery would force her to quit. Burcu and Ilhan have skillfully portrayed both lead characters, which, for the most part, are very engaging. I did not empathize with either Esra or Ozan initially, but found myself growing more sympathetic as the plot progressed.
“Nice” Guys and Gals
The polarity between good and bad is broken by multi-dimensional secondary characters. They help create the external conflict/quadrangle and their story lines have been drawn extremely well. Melisa Dongel as Çağla, an executive (with a large stake via her father’s monetary investment) in Ozan’s company, is an intelligent, educated, charming and capable young woman. She is in love with, and cares for Ozan. This love angle will provide future sources of conflict, but so far Çağla seems a welcome departure from the cliched “manipulative other woman”.
If the audience needs to sit back and enjoy a breather, they are free to focus on the most likeable character in the show, Çınar (Burak Yörük), Çağla’s twin brother, an equally or better educated, handsome and charming young man. He is forced to accept an internship at the company due to his father’s principle that one should learn a business from the bottom up, rather than having one handed to him. Çınar is attracted to Esra and is kind and protective of her, saving her from multiple situations in which she gets rashly embroiled. I’ll admit that I like him far better than Ozan in the first two episodes. His loyalty and affable personality become evident each time he comes to Esra’s rescue. Unaware of Ozan and Esra’s past relationship, he often steps in to neutralize the obvious tensions between the lead pair, as he looks up to Ozan as a mentor and has come to care for Esra. When faced with the contrast of the gentle Çınar against the embittered and rough Ozan, one wonders if it might be a worthy risk for a story to have the girl respond to what seems right (Çınar) versus what feels right (Ozan).
Ozan’s best friend and lawyer, Musa, is a character bestowed with common sense, a trait sorely lacking in some of the other characters in this series.
Redeeming Points, the Curiosity angle and more…
Being a remake, the story has a solid base, keeping the writers from making up the plot as they go along, an aspect that I perceive as one of the major downfalls of potentially good dizis. If the writers run out of ideas, they can always revert to the original. A humble plea to the makers – please, please don’t try to stretch out what should be a 16-episode series into one that goes beyond 20+ episodes.
The best part of this story is its emotional center – it is essentially a love story gone awry due to miscommunication of intent and feelings. The audience yearns to find out more about both Esra and Ozan, their shared history, what they each felt, what transpired in each of their lives that they did not share with the other, and why they couldn’t communicate their feelings. And as one gets “curiouser and curiouser” like Alice in Wonderland, I keep returning to the show with questions. What about Esra and Ozan’s past relationship? How will they reveal their past to each other? For me, everything else is peripheral, although I am suitably impressed with the production values, costumes and cinematography.
And the show goes on… and I am truly enjoying its blend of comedy and romance, woven into a strong story line. The angst is very good. It has pulled me in, and left me there steeped in curiosity, wondering and waiting for the next plot reveal.
Aşk Mantık İntikam airs on Fox Turkiye on Fridays at 8:00 pm.
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