ERTUGRUL – Why its Success is so Important

Fatima Humayun shares her thoughts on why it's a good thing, the way the drama has connected with Pakistani viewers.

It’s the hot button topic everywhere these days – the Turkish television series Resurrection- Ertugrul, which in less than a month has gained astonishing popularity among Pakistani viewers. Even though it is available on Netflix but by the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan it has started airing a dubbed version on PTV. The core reason appears to be to impart a better knowledge of our Islamic history.

But there’s more to it than that. Naturally, in an objective sense, it’s clear why the drama has found success. Dramatic direction, mesmerizing cinematic value, an emotive script and good looking, capable actors are the likely ingredients. Yet, the frenzy associated with it – unprecedented YouTube views, people sharing memes and a social media mass following, all suggests that the drama has become a piece of Pakistan’s popular cultural consciousness.

Ertrugul connects so deeply because up until now, the vast majority of Pakistanis whose entertainment was limited only to local TV and to Urdu speaking dramas based exclusively on family issues and significantly lower budget values, now suddenly have access to what is rightly being called, the “Turkish Game of Thrones”.

On another front, the drama has also evoked a sense of pride in Pakistanis about their shared religious values with other Muslims from the region. Sure, we are aware of the context of the show but now we can proudly feel like it is being exported to western audiences as well.

The identification of a social shared characteristic that they didn’t know existed – has also spurred Pakistani viewers on to embrace Etrugrul the way they have.  The intensely weaved garments of female characters look like the Balochi Pashk, a dress that ladies from Pakistan’s southern Balochistan area regularly wear. The likeness has begun a discussion about the ways of Pakistanis and their association with the Turks.

Whatever the reasons behind the massive success of Etrugrul in Pakistan – it certainly isn’t a bad thing. The way it has resonated with Pakistanis should be a wake up call for local producers to up their game and give viewers more than just saas bahu drama and hackneyed romance.

The prominent female roles should also be a wake up to our local content makers. The women in Ertrugrul are independent, powerful and active individuals who own up their responsibilities and mistakes. They have the courage to lead a kingdom when needed and they’re warriors as well who stand and fight in the battlefield beside their men. That’s very different from our melodramatic drama serial’s women who are constantly shown engulfed in domestic issues.

More importantly, now that Pakistani fans are becoming aware of the actors who portray these memorable on screen characters, they are getting the opportunity of broadening their horizons about what it means, to be Muslim.

Yes, Pakistani fans showed the worst side of themselves by being resentful that the on-screen characters in the show are not as ‘Islamic’ as they might want them to be. Commenting on the on-screen actor’s Instagram pages showing wrath that the female stars wear certain types of clothing and that the male actor is seen petting his dog and proceeding to give him  a sermon not to allow dogs at your home, has all made us cringe in the worst way.

Pakistanis should not get so engulfed in a series that they forget the difference between reality and fiction, the actors are human and they have separate lives but our people doing what they do best – judging everyone by what they show on their social media accounts. But never practicing what they preach.

However, regardless of this, they have begun to see that there are other Muslim countries where Muslims look and behave differently from them. This diversity is a good thing and one that Pakistanis desperately need in order to get out of their single minded myopic sense of judgment on all things they don’t deem ‘right.’

From this perspective, the success of Etrugrul in Pakistani has hit the bulls eye – giving a look into the glory of Islamic history, while on the other hand presenting Pakistanis unwittingly to the way of life of present day, urban, secular Turkey.