Ertugrul Ghazi may be Pakistan’s latest obsession with Turkey but cultural ties between both countries have existed since the 1980s. Instep talks to some veteran actors who recall their memorable experiences of working with the Turks.
No two countries in the world share the kind of brotherly bond that Pakistan and Turkey do; the people may not speak the same language but put a Pakistani and a Turk together and they will end up as friends. The same sentiment is extended to the popular culture of both countries. Ertugrul may be Pakistan’s latest obsession, subject to adulation as well as endless commentary, but this isn’t the first instance of a cultural bond between the two nations. This cultural exchange began 35 years back and continues just as strong even today. Let’s take a look back into time…
How it all began…
The first filmmaker to collaborate with Turkish actors and crew members was none other than the visionary director, Pervez Malik. The director, whose films had a widespread, subcontinental audience in the 1980s, was way ahead of his time and took Pakistani cinema to international shores. Back when Pakistani film directors were making mostly low budget films with neighboring Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Pervez Malik hopped continents and came up with Hulchul in 1985. Featuring Jawed Sheikh and Shabana, he also roped in the gorgeous Nazan Sanchi.
Nazan Sanchi was not just a Turk beauty, she was also an actress who proved her mettle in the handful of Pakistani films she worked in; there was another Pervez Malik flick Zanjeer in 1986 and two films with Nadeem - Talash and Badla in 1986 and 1987 respectively - to name a few. Nazan won the hearts of Pakistanis long before Beren Sarat did as Bihter in Ishq-e-Mamnoon or Esra Bilgic did as Halime Hatun in Etrugrul Ghazi; because of her immense popularity, she was also featured in a Lux commercial back in the day.
Recalling the Hulchul days, late Pervez Malik’s son Irfan Malik says that to be in Turkey in those days was an amazing experience. “Pervez sahib was a visionary and instead of just going abroad and shooting the film in scenic locations, he made sure that our crew learned things from their Turk counterparts and that’s why we hired crew members including a fight instructor and choreo-grapher from Turkey. And yes, there was the ravishing Nazan Sanchi as well, who worked with my father on a couple of films.”
Jawed Sheikh recalls friendly relations with Turkey
Veteran actor Jawed Sheikh renewed ties with Turkey both as an actor and a filmmaker during the 1990s when he made Chief Saab, Yes Boss, Kahin Pyar Na Ho Jaye and as late as 2018 when he returned to his second favorite country for Wajood. He has some interesting tales to tell about his visits to the country.
“Pakistan and Turkey have brotherly relations and they call us ‘kardesh,’ which means brother in their language,” he shared, in a conversation with Instep. “They are not just a brotherly country but also a Muslim country with beautiful, dedicated, and honest people who love us Pakistanis. Whenever we worked there, we had a Turk crew, an interpreter, and a Pakistani crew; when our mobile kitchen on the shoot presented us with the food, we would end up in their camp and they would be in our camp.
“During the 1990s, we shot many films in Turkey, with Syed Noor’s Jeeva changing the game where I played Babar Ali’s elder brother who travels to Turkey to take revenge from the very person whose daughter he is in love with. During Jeeva, we managed to shoot at Topkapi Museum, which was a first for Pakistan and later returned for my own productions Chief Saab, Yes Boss, Kahin Pyar Na Hojaye and Wajood,” Jawed Sheikh recalled.
“When I approached the Turk authorities during the shooting for Wajood and showed them my earlier work in Turkey, they were so happy that they made things easy for us. We wanted a certain kind of palace to shoot a song; the Governor of Rize ensured we got one, free of cost. Then we needed a Rolls Royce to shoot some scenes and the Governor again called a friend of his who sent the car to pick us up when we landed in Istanbul, all the way from Rize and it stayed with us for 7 days. That’s the kind of relations we have with Turkey!”
Pakistani Rambo in Turkey
After Jeeva, many Pakistani filmmakers decided to visit Turkey and explore the country as a new location for their films. Be it Shamim Ara’s Love ’95 or Miss Istanbul, Masood Butt’s Khuda Janay or Jawed Sheikh’s Chief Saab, Yes Boss, Kahin Pyar Na Hojaye, or Wajood, every time a Pakistani crew landed in Turkey, it was an extended holiday of sorts for the stars. The most recent alliance with Turkey was Nadeem Baig’s Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2. Pakistani actor Afzal Khan, best known as Jan Rambo, recalls an incident where a TV crew came to cover a local actor who was working with them in Khuda Janay and returned with exclusive news about there being a ‘Pakistani Rambo’.
“I have worked in many countries but the kind of love I got in Sri Lanka and in Turkey will remain with me forever,” he said. “During a spell in Turkey during the mid-90s, when we worked in back to back films, we had loads of fun. Not only did we stay at a hotel in the now historic Taksim Square, at that time we considered it home. In Khuda Janay, we had a local actor working with us in a lead role and a local TV crew came to cover him, but when they saw me and my resemblance with Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone, they covered me as well. When we returned to the hotel after completing our shoot outside the city, everybody was staring at me for some reason. We later got to know that the local TV channel and newspapers gave coverage to ‘Pakistani Rambo’ and that’s why people came over to me and showered their love. In fact, when we went out shopping, I received gifts from shop owners because of my new-found celebrity status in Turkey.
“I must add here that I have never seen more patriotic people than Turks; they love their land passionately and two incidents that happened in front me made my belief stronger in their patriotism. Once while returning from a party late at night, our choreographer Pappu Samrat touched a plant on the sidewalk and a local cab driver came to us and complained about it in his native language; we were so surprised that he was so concerned about touching a plant. Similarly, while on a ferry ride I put my feet up on the bench as we do back home and another Turk scolded me for doing so. He was right and I was wrong, but the reason I am telling you this is that I have never seen any other nationality love their country this much!”
Faysal Quraishi’s Turkish adventure
It wasn’t just our film stars who had a great time in Turkey, our TV stars were also mesmerized during their trips to the brotherly country. Faysal Quraishi recalls his wonderful time in Turkey while shooting TV dramas Yaarian, Qaid-e-Tanhai, Mera Sayeen, and part of Haal e Dil.
“We have shot in Turkey in both extreme heat and in extremely cold conditions; in fact, if I remember correctly we even shot in the Holy month of Ramadan and it didn’t feel that we were shooting in another country.
Turkish people are not just co-operative, they are also thorough profess-ionals. During one of our shoots, director Babar Javed had an idea for which he needed a bus; producer Asif Raza Mir passed on the request to a local bus service, and in no time, we had a bus at our disposal. For two whole hours, we shot wherever we wanted (after necessary approvals, of course) and nobody disturbed us. I have found them to be very welcoming and that’s why when I had meetings with them for some scenes of my film Sorry A Love Story, they gave me 10 options for locations when I asked for just one. What’s even better is that Turkish people love Pakistan and the feeling is mutual; staying there, spending time, and meeting new people in Turkey are memories I always cherish.”
Pakistan, Turkey and the 21st century
With the phenomenal success of Etrugrul Ghazi airing on PTV, the audience has realized a new found love for Turkey. Brotherly relations between the two countries will reach new heights with Tich Button that features a part Turkish crew and Gawah Rehna that revolves around the Khilafat Movement that happened in United India to save the Ottoman Empire. Filmmaker Irfan Malik believes that the time is right for part collaboration with Turkey and once things settle down, who knows Pakistan and Turkey can come up with a joint venture.
“Right now, hiring a foreign actor for a local film be it in Turkey or Pakistan is a little expensive for our industry; while they spend a million dollars to produce an episode of a TV show, we can’t afford that kind of luxury. It will take time and that’s why we are going for partial collaborations with Turkey.
For full collaborations, we will have to raise the stakes, in a film’s case, the budget. Right now we can’t do that and that’s why we have hired a local Director of Photography from Turkey as well as a few crew members to give Tich Button an international feel. Once our filmmakers understand the dynamics of business with other countries, they will be able to generate big budgets for full collaborations, and that, in turn, will mean big returns.”