By Janina Karemäe
I sometimes wish I was like İpek Gümüşçü.
I came across Baş Belası when browsing through the dizi offering that TV channels have prepared for this summer. There are several romcoms that I found good, some even very good, and I will be certainly watching a couple of them. But Baş Belası struck me as quite different. It is not really a romcom – a girl-meets-boy story – and not really a crime drama, because the crimes that the homicide unit has to solve are not particularly challenging or thrilling. It has elements of romance, comedy and suspense, and being a dizi aired during the summer season, it is naturally on the lighter side. Within its ambiguity, I have found it to be a good watch, if one is looking for something not quite ordinary. And – perhaps as a manifestation of the current Zeitgeist – it touches aspects of feminism, as it explores how well are women equipped to deal with a situation where the man, on whom they were relying for a long time, is no longer there – for whatever reason, emphasizing the importance of having something to fall back on. To date, the show has reached its 6th episode and some plot lines are starting to mature.
But back to İpek Gümüşçü (played by İrem Helvacıoğlu), the leading lady of Baş Belası. And indeed, a lady she is. At the outset of the story, İpek seems like a conventional trophy wife who wakes up minutes before her husband to freshen up and put on some make-up, just to look perfect when her husband’s wake-up alarm sounds. She appears and behaves like a graduate from a posh finishing school. In her early 30s she is not a young girl, she is clearly well educated and smart, gracious, composed, soft spoken, impeccably dressed, and has a great sense of style. The only things I have found missing from her lady-of-the-manor attire are a fine cashmere twinset and the single string of pearls.
She carries herself with dignity, and holds herself calmly together even in the face of a tragedy. When the disaster strikes – İpek finds out that her husband has sold all their property, including everything her mother owned, and has disappeared only to be killed soon afterwards – she manages to pick herself up quickly, as she realises that it’s on her now to take care of her son, her home and her mother. She never allows herself to speak ill of her husband to her son Görkem, who loves his father. And İpek does all this with style and elegance. But one should not underestimate her. Under this soft and calm exterior there is a woman tough as nails.
On the other hand, the leading man Şahin Kara, played by Seçkin Özdemir, seems rough and often unreasonably grumpy, poorly groomed, and clearly has some anger management problems. Viewers are offered glimpses of his past that seem to reveal that there have been many difficulties, and even a tragedy in his life, which have turned him into the man he is, but he is highly respected by his work colleagues which make you suspect that there is more in him than meets the eye.
Both the characters have their own entourage. İpek has her mother, a former pillar of the local high society who has now lost everything because of her son-in-law, but who is trying to cope the best she can to keep her dignity. She is the person who gives İpek the first nudge for taking hold of her life. Then there is Nazlı, a pretty and silly hot-head but a true and loyal friend, the only person who does not turn her back on İpek when her husband is found out to be a criminal. Nazlı, who herself is going through a divorce with Birol, is trying to find her feet as a single lady with no real skills. Although not yet financially constrained, Nazlı understands that her divorce and alimony case might not be as successful as she hopes, so she also decides to take her fate in her own hands, and see what options she has, should her worst fears materialize. She turns to a career adviser only to realise that she is not qualified for either manual or mental work, so she sets out to find something that she is good at with her typical aplomb. The last member of İpek’s team is her live-in housekeeper Betül, who seems more like a family member than a hired help and who addresses İpek as “abla”. In addition to the three, İpek also has her 10-year-old son Görkem, who is mourning his father and is trying to come to terms with what has happened to his family. The four women that make up İpek’s household are all different, yet complement each other, and make you believe that the world might just be resting on women, not on elephants and turtles. All these women are affected by what has happened to İpek, but have managed to join their forces and make the best of what they have.
Şahin, in turn, is surrounded by his work colleagues, the officers of the homicide unit, which has its own dynamic. Unlike many romcoms, this workplace is not just people sitting in chairs, but consists of individual characters each of whom has their own story and role. There is the superior officer Mehmet Yağci, a good-natured decent man, who is a bit clumsy with computers and the Internet, and relies on his younger work colleagues. The team of detectives includes Nermin, an ambitious and accomplished officer, who, on the one hand, loves her job, likes being independent and stand on her own feet, and, on the other hand, has a problematic relationship with her fiancé and his parents, as they cannot understand why she should go on working after marriage as her husband is perfectly capable of providing for her. Struggling with her choices, she seeks advice from İpek. There is Doruk, who is secretly in love with Nermin and is nurturing the hope of Nermin leaving her fiancé, and there is Umut, a soon-to-be dad who is trying to cope with his pregnant wife’s whims. İpek finds a way to help Umut, and earns herself another ally at the station.
The villain of the story is an organization that seems to be using honey traps to blackmail successful businessmen. At this stage we have no idea who runs it or how; the only thing that is known is that, like an octopus, the organization has tentacles almost everywhere, and that İpek’s husband Kadir and Birol’s mistress Banu are involved in its criminal schemes. We also learn that one of the higher-ranking police officers, Yener Yılmaz and a pedagogue, i.e., a children’s therapist, whom İpek unknowingly contacts to discuss her son’s issues with his father’s criminal activities and subsequent murder, have links with it too.
The story starts with Nazlı suspecting that her husband Birol might be cheating on her. İpek, who is a trained psychologist, and a bit bored of her unproblematic life, is known to give advice to her friends in such matters, and she agrees to do some detective work to help Nazlı find out who her rival is. To their surprise they first stumble upon a man trying to commit a suicide – where İpek has her first bizarre run-in with Şahin – and then find themselves at the murder scene of the suspected mistress of Nazlı’s husband, where they meet Şahin again.
One thing leads to another and İpek finds herself working as the psychologist at the homicide unit headed by Şahin. İpek is highly committed to her work and, like a true lady, makes every effort to perform at the best of her abilities. Although she cannot afford a new wardrobe to match her new job – she can barely pay her household bills – her excellent sense of style helps her to look professional and not stand out among her work colleagues. Needless to say, Şahin does not want to see İpek around, thinking that she is a liability and is not suited for the work, while İpek does not want to leave because she wants to know what has happened to her husband and has promised her son that she will work with the police to find his father’s murderer. The viewer is first led to think that Şahin has a problem with a civilian meddling in his work, but soon we hear him say that he knows how dangerous the organization is, because it has caused the death of his sister, an undercover police officer, and he does not want İpek’s son to lose his mother as well. But naturally, Mehmet Amir gives İpek his fully backing, and so İpek has secured her place in the police force.
And, of course, sparks are starting to fly. İpek and Şahin are not an ordinary romcom couple. To begin with, they are both in their 30s and while viewers are only given some idea about Şahin’s past, İpek has been married for 11 years and, as she believed, happily too. Neither of them is really looking for a life partner, and both believe that their relationship is completely professional. But things are changing, albeit slowly. In spite of his grumpy conduct, Şahin has shown to be quite aware of İpek’s challenges, and has stepped in to help Görkem, when his help was needed. İpek too has started to view Şahin as a partner, rather than an obstacle that she needs to overcome to keep her job.
It is still early days but if the script follows a romcom pattern, we should expect İpek and Şahin to become romantically involved soon, just to break up after a while, and to finally come together again. The ratings of the show are not particularly high, which may be due to its Sunday slot. It may also be that, against the rich offering of dizis for this summer, the fact that the show does not fit into any expected patterns, leaves viewers unsatiated. Viewers who are looking for a romcom are put off by the crime drama and vice versa. So, those of us who have come to like the show for the interesting characters and nonconforming themes, hope that the channel will continue to invest in the potential of the show, where we see women adopt unconventional personas while on the feminine journey of self-reliance against life’s challenges.
Baş Belası airs on ATV on Sundays at 8:00 p.m.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Janina Karemäe
Janina Karemäe is a consultant and free-lance translator from Tallinn, Estonia. Her love of languages brought her into the world of Turkish dizis, and her stay there has turned out to be longer than she expected.
Over the years Janina has translated a number of books from English into her own language – Estonian, such as “The Naked and The Dead” by Norman Mailer, “Sophie’s Choice” by William Styron, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, and “West with the Night by Beryl Markha
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