After gaining sweeping popularity in the Middle East, South Africa and, surprisingly, in South America, the action-packed Turkish television series “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” (“Resurrection: Ertuğrul”) has taken over Pakistan.
Its popularity is so widespread that Prime Minister Imran Khan recently ordered that all five seasons be dubbed in Urdu to make it easier for the general public to watch and understand. Often described as a Turkish "Game of Thrones," the series is set in 13th century Anatolia and tells the story of the lead-up to the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. The show brings to life the struggle of Ertuğrul Gazi, the father of the empire's first leader Osman I.
Cutting across the social divide, the series is praised for its plot, high quality production values, talented actors and perfect direction. The adept makers of the series know how keep the audience on edge in each episode.
Former cricketer Shahid Afridi said the series has brought history to his living room. "Watching the Turkish series “Diriliş: Ertuğrul,” I am overwhelmed by the achievements and victories that came as a result of their faith and the empire of justice which they were able to establish," he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Mohammad Amin, a young engineer based in Islamabad, told AA: "I have watched all five seasons, 390 episodes, online. Only one season has been dubbed in Urdu, while the others, I watched with Urdu subtitles."
The series is also very popular among women, who watch the show in their homes. "So far I watched two seasons with my husband and kids, and I can say that this is a great effort of Turkey to show us our history," said Naila Khan, a local teacher from the Mardan district of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“I learned from this series that rulers of the Ottoman Empire were pious, thoughtful and brave, and that was the reason they ruled half of Europe,” she remarked.
Turkish dramas 'a whiff of fresh air'
In September, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia agreed to jointly fight the rising global trend of Islamophobia, mainly in the West. The three countries decided to launch a TV channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by anti-Muslim hate and make films on Islam's heroes.
“Diriliş: Ertuğrul" is not the only Turkish TV series to develop a huge following in the country. Other Turkish TV serials that have widely acclaim include “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (“Magnificent Century”), “Aşk-ı Memnu” (“Forbidden Love”), "Fatmagül'ün Suçu Ne?" ("What is Fatmagül's Crime?"), and Kösem Sultan.
Filmmaker and producer Jamshed Ahmad Khan said the Turkish industry works very hard and does not compromise on technology, adding that Pakistan's upper class is obsessed with modern dressing and vies for liberal storylines. "There are many other reasons also behind the popularity of Turkish TV dramas. (The elements) from acting to set design to storylines, and above all, the liberal attitude of characters, are what attract our youth in particular," Khan said.
He said that Turkish dramas have affected Pakistan's own TV industry and also stolen viewership from Indian soap operas. "With the arrival of cable networks, our TV channels, private producers and our drama industry took a beating from Indian counterparts. With Indian soap operas now becoming boring with same set of faces and never-ending story lines, Turkish dramas have come as a whiff of fresh air.”