by mh musings
Taking the fall season by storm, Yalı Çapkını on Star TV has shot to the top of the show ratings across all channels. Another production that showcases the continued collaboration between psychiatrist Dr. Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu (Doğduğun Ev Kaderindir, Masumlar Apartmanı , Kırmızı Oda) and Onur Güvenatam of OGM Pictures, Yalı Çapkını (English title Golden Boy) is a character driven family drama, centered around the budding love story between Istanbulite playboy Ferit and the feisty Seyran from Antep, after they are forced into an arranged marriage.
The trope of rich boy, poor girl, or city boy from the fast lane with the pure country girl, is common enough. One of the very first Turkish series to make a name in the international market is the Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ starrer Gümüş, which also has a similar premise. What makes this story stand out are the multi-generational arcs where we see the fall-out of choices made in love and life, and how that impacts the family dynamics across the intertwined fates of Ferit and Seyran.
Halis Ağa, a native of Antep and a transplant into the elite society in Istanbul, is the owner of a large jewelry empire and the patriarch of the Korhan family. He lives in a grand yalı (majestic looking mansions along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, mostly built in the 18th – 20th centuries), with his younger son Orhan, his wife Gülgün and their two boys Fuat and Ferit. Fuat, married to Asuman, works with his father in taking care of the family business, while Ferit shirks all responsibilities and is a known womanizer. Also with them is Ifakat, Halis’ elder son’s widow, who has been given the status of being Halis’ voice among matters at home.
No longer tolerant of Ferit’s escapades and wanting to make a man out of him, Halis decrees that Ferit must marry a girl from Antep, and tasks Ifakat with locating such a bride. This news reaches the welcome ears of Kazim, a socially greedy land baron in Gaziantep, who has groomed his two daughters with the sole purpose of getting them married into rich families. Through the help of a matchmaker, Kazim’s spinster aunt Hattuç brings elder daughter Suna to Ifakat’s attention, and the families agree for the Korhans to come and ask for her hand in marriage.
Before the celebratory evening, Ferit has a couple of run ins with younger daughter Seyran and is enchanted by her, while both are oblivious of each other’s identities. When Ferit’s family arrives to ask for Suna, and he happens to catch a glimpse of Seyran, he asks his parents to ask for Seyran instead. Ignoring the inappropriate nature of the ask, Seyran’s own life ambitions, and the impact it can have on his unmarried elder daughter, self-serving Kazim accepts the offer with open arms, thus securing his access to the Korhan fortune.
The story unfolds as Ferit and Seyran gets legally united while neither has intentions of making this a real marriage. Ferit wishes to continue cavorting with his lover Pelin, while Seyran wants to pursue her dreams of a university education. However, as they get drawn to each other, their budding relationship is impeded by external interests and inner conflicts, while they navigate the complex family dynamics from both sides.
Having reticent male characters as a romantic lead is one of the most common TV tropes. We have seen many stories of how the fresh, spirited young girl unleashes the goodness in his cold heart, opening the doors to their meandering love story.
Ferit Korhan, magnificently essayed by Mert Ramazan Demir, is a multi-dimensional character who is at the core of the story. An immodest, carefree flirt who harbors a sensitive heart, Ferit grapples with diabetes and the oppressive rules of his home. Someone who displays no overt sense of responsibility actually has a strong sense of justice and rises to protect when he can. Some of this he does with his charisma and some he does with force. The wide spectrum of emotions captured through dramatic and impeccable comic timing unveils an atypical, emotionally sensitive male character who is flawed in many ways. A man-child who evokes motherly instincts with his boyish charm despite his caddish behavior, Ferit is an astute and rebellious young man who is still maturing into his potential.
Afra Saraçoğlu as Seyran is a spitfire. Stunning with her luminous gray eyes and light brown tresses, she is a blend of innocence, fiery independence, and empathy, who remains loyal to her emotional ties with her sister and mother while she tries to understand the new rules within the yalı and her unconventional marriage.
As her interactions with Ferit evolve, we see the effects of her trauma from an abusive father who controlled most aspects of their lives. Through their shared childhood suffering, Seyran has a special bond with her sister Suna (Beril Pozam), the strength of which spills into many of her life decisions. Both Seyran and Suna exhibit many symptoms of surviving domestic violence but, at the same time, we also see both girls trying to rise above them. Seyran, unlike Suna, always wanted to be self-reliant and never sought marriage or a man as her escape hatch. Her emotional struggles arising from being thrust into a situation she didn’t want is well portrayed by Afra.
Both characters are refreshingly different even though the premise is superficially formulaic. Both their desires for self-determinism become apparent in their mannerisms and choices, which pushes the boundaries of the boxes drawn around them. This rebellious streak isn’t uncommon in TV characters but the difference is in the emotional depth of the characters and how it is portrayed.
On Screen Chemistry
This is the second project where Afra and Mert are working together, having shared screen space in Öğretmen (2020) where they are also a couple. There’s a natural flair to their on-screen chemistry, further enhanced with improvised scenes that can turn a dramatic exchange into endearing comedy. Seyran’s mimicry of Ferit is a particular highlight in their exchanges and the chaos that ensues from their bickering involves a healthy dose of physical comedy as well. Their long term off-screen friendship is a blessing to this on-screen pairing.
Stepping away from the Turkish romcom formula of long cinematic shots designed to capture contrived facial expressions of sensuality, Ferit and Seyran are becoming slowly entangled with each other through their everyday exchanges. They make mistakes, do unacceptable things and, at each turn, they learn to heal some distance between them. They find common interests and, on good days, share a camaraderie that is ripe for making a strong friendship the core of their relationship. Their story provides an unusually rich experience through their dialogue, dramatic plot arcs and full body acting.
Thought Provoking Themes
Misogynistic plot choices are common in productions across the globe, especially in those from conservative societies. In part dramatizing social narratives from local communities, in part presenting ways women often overcome life’s hardships, these family themed stories are relatable for a large global audience. The visually rich but socially modest approach in Turkish productions, which tackle a spectrum of issues around feminism, is at the crux of its appeal among its international viewers.
Adherent to this core strength in Turkish tales, Yalı Çapkını provokes debates on double standards for men and women through the various plot arcs presented, particularly through Ferit and Seyran. Not expecting to fall in love with his wife, Ferit’s liberal notions about his love life comes into conflict with his actions as he wrestles with his feelings when an ex-boyfriend emerges on the scene. There are other secrets that lurk the halls of the Korhan yalı which begin to unravel the family dynamics, expose hypocrisy and power plays, between men and women, and between the women folk of the home.
Spread across life choices among multiple generations, we see the melancholy of Halis and Hattuç when they confront their unrequited love story; the contrasts and similarities between the polished relationship of Orhan and Gülgün versus the more crude dynamic of Kazim and his wife Esme. And then there are the youngsters and their gangly youth itself getting in the way of growth in their respective relationships. Every character has a worthy arc, each a product of their upbringing and environment, and each manifesting behaviors that are rooted in their life’s traumas.
This character driven storytelling is a particular strength of Dr. Budayıcıoğlu and like many of her other works, Yalı Çapkını is also inspired by a true story from her patient files. There are disturbing characters and plot lines, but it is so well told that one wants to savor every scene in an effort to understand how the details connect together.
A Majestic Production
In the able hands of director Burcu Alptekin (The Gift, The Protector, Another Self), the rich frames are aesthetically pleasing and maximizes the potential of physical spaces used by the actors. Much like in the highly popular British production Downton Abbey, the Korhan yalı boasts the parallel lives of the owners and the vast staff employed to serve them. Even though shot in the same home, there are distinct differences in accommodations that demonstrate the class differences visually.
Using the mansion owned by the famous Sabancı family in Istanbul, the colors and views from the yalı are spectacular. It is perfectly complemented by music from composer Güldiyar Tanrıdağlı, who uses orchestral structures that are a strong blend of classical Western compositions and traditional Turkish tunes. In some scenes, the combination of music and cinematography give a strong impression of a British period drama, especially those shot in the manor in Antep and some in the expansive shots of life in the yalı.
Boasting industry greats such as Çetin Tekindor (Halis) and Şerif Sezer (Hattuç), it is a very well cast show. Yiğit Tuncay as Latif Bey, who plays Halis Ağa’s valet and the butler of the mansion, is appropriately stiff and forbidding in his demeanor. Ersin Arıcı as Ferit’s confidante and family chauffeur complements Ferit’s shenanigans with finesse. Gözde Kansu, playing Ferit’s mother Gülgün, fits perfectly as Halis’ sweet daughter-in-law whereas the same actress played Tekindor’s siren wife in Içerde. Good rapport among the actors is evident, which translates into captivating scenes on screen.
Even though the story by Dr. Budayıcıoğlu is being scripted by male writer Mehmet Barış Günger, the female power behind making of the story is noteworthy. The characters are all well-written but the female characters in particular are well explored. From the elderly Hattuç to the young Seyran, there is a female narrative for a variety of female demographics, making this a series with wide appeal. And this reflects in the astronomical rise in the ratings, which posted its highest total of 12.03 on Episode 6. The show has also started airing on Arabic channel MBC4, with further international sales pending.
Even though the basic premise seems cliché, the layered storytelling has created multiple interesting plot arcs that are yet to be explored. One wonders about the depth of history between Halis and Hattuç; what will happen to Suna now that her younger sister being married before her increases the risk of her remaining a spinster; how the unrevealed secrets of the yalı will affect the power dynamic in the house; how does Ferit and Seyran overcome the chasms they keep getting thrown into, and so much more.
As a family drama and how it should be interpreted, perhaps its essence is best captured in this poetic recitation Halis asks Latif to write down one evening:
“Life…life is like coffee grounds;
Strange, and full of secret shapes;
Only to be read by eyes that can comprehend them”
Coming up on Episode 8 this Friday, November 11, 2022, the pace of the storytelling has been well crafted so far, with the primary focus remaining on the evolution of the lead pair. If the momentum remains the same and the producers have a clear vision around the end of the story, Yalı Çapkını has the potential to enter the Turkish Dizi Hall of Fame, alongside some other greats such as Istanbullu Gelin, Aşk-ı Memnu, Gümüş and more.
I leave you with the teaser for the show and I hope you will be inspired to start watching the series, if you haven’t already! Yalı Çapkını airs on Star TV on Fridays at 8 pm Turkish time.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & mh musings/ @entrespire , twitter
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