Sooner or later, it had to happen. Given the crazy response Ertuğrul Ghazi has received, it was only a matter of time before reality struck home for those few die-hard fans, who well, bought into literally all that the show depicted. And it had to be those unfortunate Instagram pictures posted by the cast which shattered that illusion and bore the brunt of the disappointment.
Yes, the characters they were seeing on screen were, in fact, being played by Turkish actors. Oh, and Turkey has always allowed its citizens (including the women) the freedom to dress the way they want, too.
Does all of this sound too absurd to be true? Well occasionally, reality ends up being stranger than fiction, and this certainly seems to be the case here.
The actors are well, actors
It all started with Ertugrul’s leading man Engin Altan Düzyatan. A few social media users objected to a photograph of his that has him posing with quite a few dogs. Dogs, according to the moral code they advocate and prescribe (but perhaps not follow), should be anathema to a true believer. A user going by the handle @razi.ahmed commented “I am sad to say that this is not the Ertugrul I saw in the show. How can you have a dog indoors when you know Islam prohibits it?”
The outrage over such comments – from Pakistanis themselves – quite hearteningly was far more vocal and rightly set the record straight, generally noting that the trolls needed to fix their act, and perhaps their minds too.
Esra Bilic is not Halima!
Pakistan men having a meltdown at esbilgic (Halima Sultan from Ertugul) posting a picture because Astaghfirullah Halima baji 😂 pic.twitter.com/sFblUu5Bw1
— Sheldon (@Avicenna911) May 10, 2020
Another victim ended up being actor Esra Bilgic, who was put under the microscope by the moral police for what it saw as inappropriate dressing. Esra plays the character Halima Sultan in the historical-adventure series, and let’s just say a few social media trolls decided to equate the actor’s values with that of 12th century Halima Sultan. Sigh.
Given the unprecedented popularity the show is currently experiencing, literally everyone has something or the other to say about it or those too surreal to be true responses to cast members’ photographs. At the time of filing this story, Halima Sultan was the top trend on Pakistan’s twitter indicating that, well, a pandemonium has been put in motion.
Petition to grant Halima Sultan the title of Pakistan's National Mother !
— Maddie (@__medicolegal) May 12, 2020
Some Twitter users pointed out that Esra had actually objected to Priyanka Chopra’s comments during the late February India Pakistan tensions last year, and that it was unfortunate that she had to face some unsavory criticism at the hands of some social media users who live in the deep neck of the woods.
Halima Sultan of ertugrul defends Muslims on both onscreen and off screen pic.twitter.com/3Kdg716sAh
— ViewsVoices (@TheViewsVoices) May 12, 2020
Celebrity reactions pour in
Earlier, we had reported how Shaan Shahid had tweeted about his disapproval for the show. In the ensuing period, many more celebs have jumped onto the bandwagon, with each weighing their opinion(s). Actor and musician Haroon Shahid tweeted his ardent backing, saying that everyone needs to watch the show “as much as possible”.
Ertugrul itna dekho, itni clips share karo, hazaaron Memes banao, Tik Toks banao kay Imran Khan ki wajah say iss dramay say sarnay waalay aur pareeshan hoon! #MondayMotivation 👏🏼🤷🏻♂️😁
— Haroon Shahid (@Haroon_5hahid) May 11, 2020
Bilal Ashraf too was all for it, praising the series for what he called a “great story and awesome production.”
ERTUGRUL is brilliant. Great story and awesome production. Happy to see it was introduced to the local audiences. Film/ Drama is a form of art and needs to be appreciated regardless of where it was made 😊 #Ertugrulgazi 👍 What do you guys think?
— Bilal Ashraf (@IamBilalAshraf) May 9, 2020
Meanwhile, Ahsan Khan, as usual, came up with the sane perspective regarding all the unfortunate trolling some fans had thrown the Turkish actors’ way, pointing that “It’s bloody shameful what’s going on (the social media).”
Indeed, as Ahsan points out, many actors including the biggest names in the industry like Mehwish Hayat and Ayeza Khan have been slut-shamed and have borne the brunt of social media over their onscreen performances that the moral brigade has been offended by.
— Ahsan Khan (@Ahsankhanuk) May 11, 2020
Actor Adnan Malik too chimed in and noted the unique interpretation of Islamic culture and how it should be seen as a welcome move.
Whats most fascinating about #Ertugrul on Ptv is that the avg Pakistani gets to see a completely different take on the cultural values of a predominantly Muslim country. For the longest time the only Islam that existed here was the one derived & practiced from Saudi & the MIdeast
— adnanmalik (@adnanmalik) May 12, 2020
How could any discussion on social media be without Jibran Nasir’s two cents? The socio-political activist felt that all the Ertugrul craze was the product of an ‘identity crisis.’ While we note that genealogy, race, identity, and culture are complex and often contentious subjects that cannot be addressed by sweeping generalities, Jibran opined in a tweet that “…(Previously) we mimicked Arabs tracing our roots to Bin Qasim. Now we’re trying being Turks.”
We've many beautiful cultures in Pak but many still face a identity crisis which is also seen in our diaspora. Being ourselves often causes "Goras" to confuse us as Indians due to our similarities so we mimicked Arabs tracing our roots to Bin Qasim. Now we're trying being Turks
— M. Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) May 10, 2020
Meanwhile, Galaxy Lollywood contributor Zeeshan Mahmood was irked by Ertrugrul fans taking a liking to the show without realizing how modern Turkey has evolved, into a shape and form they might not necessarily find agreeable. A better idea, he felt was to focus on the country’s own unique history, spanning the millennia that predate independence from British India.
Meanwhile, Twitteratis were quick to counter Jibran’s comments.
You will become a Turk if you watch Ertugrul but watching GOT and Money Heist will make you a true Pakistani. https://t.co/YJXZ7DhLUa
— Tehseen Bajwa (@TBajwa7) May 10, 2020
A few even had some zany recommendations, which truly put an end to any debate and controversy about Ertugrul.
Forget Ertugrul, what we need is a narcos type series for lyari gang war featuring Uzair Baloch & PPP for the culture
— Osama. (@ashaqeens) May 11, 2020
Given the bipolar nature of the debate, it would be prudent to advise that the show only be taken at face value for the entertainment it provides, and not be treated as some deep religious sermon or an authentic lesson in history and morality that needs to be aped by the cast members or those in the audience. However, given its only early days when it comes to exposure to international entertainment for a large swathe of the masses (the show is being broadcast on PTV’s terrestrial network, too), such reactions are not surprising. We at Galaxy Lollywood will continue to update you on the latest developments about the show, so stay tuned and watch this space!