Turkish content, specifically drama serials, was introduced to Pakistani audiences back in the early 2010s. The Urdu dubbed version of Ishq e Mamnoon aired on the then newly launched channel Urdu1, doing astounding numbers for the channel and giving a tough competition to the local content on the rating chart. This caused a tsunami of Turkish content being dubbed for our local TV channels with shows like Mera Sultan charting high on the TRP list.
Even back then, there were a number of protests from our own industry members being very loud and clear regarding their disapproval of Turkish content taking over our entertainment industry. But as supply and demand is what always drives business, the content kept on coming. Turkish dramas continued to air on some channels alongside Pakistani dramas. Then, Ertuğrul Ghazi happened.
The show, that once flopped back when it was first introduced on Hum Sitaray back in 2014, was re-introduced to the Pakistani audience when the Prime Minister Imran Khan himself endorsed the show. And unlike other Turkish dramas, that aired on private channels, Ertuğrul Ghazi got home at PTV making sure that no house with a TV in the country would miss out on it.
The brand endorsements
The show was an instant success. Pakistani audience not only accepted the show with open arms for its content because it showed the glorious history of Muslim heroes, but also its actors for portraying the characters of the said Muslim heroes. And seeing the overwhelming number of people gravitating towards the Turkish actors, it was only a matter of time before the brands got in on the whole deal. Thanks to the success of the show the Ertuğrul Ghazi actors Engin Altan Düzyatan and Esra Bilgiç have found in Pakistan, not just a loving audience but lucrative business deals.
Actors getting brand endorsements after delivering hit dramas is not an unusual thing. However, this is the first time any non-Pakistani actors who do not belong to Bollywood have gotten huge endorsements deals one after another. Esra in particular has landed multiple deals with brands like Jazz, QMobile, and Khaadi in a short span of time. Clad in traditional Pakistani attire, Esra had even wished Pakistanis Eid Mubarak sponsored by Jazz. When in Pakistan…
Engin, on the other hand, has signed an agreement with a private housing society in Islamabad to be its ambassador. The news of him visiting Pakistan for the groundbreaking ceremony of a mosque of the same housing scheme is already doing the rounds. He was also invited via Facebook live to meet three differently-abled children from Pakistan Make-A-Wish, which was a whole different can of worms.
It isn’t unheard of for foreign celebrities to sign such brand deals in Pakistan. However, it is certainly odd considering the number of advertisements and endorsements being thrown Esra and Engin’s way. It is also fascinating how Esra is being offered all the big brands that do not shy away from portraying the actress in a glamorous light while Engin’s Ertuğrul persona is kept intact considering how he is being brought here for a mosque’s inauguration.
Nevertheless, it ultimately doesn’t matter which persona the brand wants its ambassador to have. Advertisement is all about the money business and the brands know it best what sells. However, the lines become a little blurry when national brands that are created to support and promote local talent also join in the line to get international faces to represent them.
Javed Afridi, owner of Peshawar Zalmi one of the key teams of the Pakistani Cricket League, had tweeted about getting Esra and Engin on-board as the ambassadors for the Zalmi team. Although no official confirmation about whether or not the deal has taken place has been announced yet, Esra had tweeted positively about some “good news” related to Peshawar Zalmi earlier in July.
— Esra Bilgiç (@esbilgic) July 5, 2020
Hamza Ali Abbasi, Mahira Khan, Mehwish Hayat, Humaima Malik, Sana Javed, Gul Panra, and Hania Amir are some of the names who have been associated with the Zalmi team since the team’s inception. All of these are big and respectable names of our industry who have contributed majorly to the country’s industry. What does it mean for the our own local talent if a team like Peshawar Zalmi, a team named after a major city of Pakistan that is meant to hone the skills of local talent of the country, might end up getting endorsed by actors that have nothing to do with the country and its local people?
What lies at the end of it?
The discussions and the debates about this topic have been on-going ever since Ertuğrul Ghazi started becoming big. It started with concerns about the country’s government endorsing foreign content instead of paying attention to improving the local productions and since then has spilled over concerns about the local artists losing out on opportunities because of foreign actors.
One side of the argument says that the quality content imported in the country has only magnified the shortcomings and flaws of our local content. So instead of blaming others for being good, the industry should concentrate on improving itself so it can raise the standard of quality. The other side argues that if the already limited resources in the country will be used on foreigners and foreign content, how will the industry even think of getting better?
Regardless of which side of the argument one chooses to support, it is an undeniable reality that the major success of Ertuğrul Ghazi in Pakistan and the subsequent benefits that its lead stars have gotten from Pakistan have given the Pakistani industry a much-needed wake-up call. For an industry solely based on supply and demand, most of the names in the spotlight are ever-changing like spokes on a wheel, and very rarely do they stick for long. For now, they are Turkish names.
However, if the Pakistani industry continues to serve subpar content without thinking of how to raise the standards for the industry so that it sustains for a long period of time, the case of Ertuğrul Ghazi, Engin Altan Düzyatan, and Esra Bilgiç might just become the start of a new norm. For now, we can only hope that this is just a small phase that will fade away with the popularity of the show. Because the longer this goes on, the bigger the concerns will get.