Endorsed by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself, it is no surprise that Dirilis Ertugrul has been breaking records and proving to be one of the most popular television series airing in Pakistan in 2020.
In a recent talk show hosted by Waseem Badami, one of the show's most sought out characters Turgut Alp (played by Cengiz Coskun), was invited to talk about his experience with the show's unexpected popularity in Pakistan.
With his past associated with sports, the Turkish actor instantly hit it off on a friendly note with Shahid Afridi and the duo shared warm invites and excitement at the prospect of meeting each other soon.
"I used to play basketball for ten years," revealed Coskun. "Played professionally for three years, but when I got injured, I started modelling, then acting, and now I’m here in front of your eyes."
While he asked Boom Boom to teach him how to play cricket, the former national team captain was pretty sure he wasn't going to take up acting.
“No chance, it's not my domain and I don't know how to act," shared Afridi. "I do TV commercials with great difficulty. It's not my job at all."
However, he did express a keenness to learn how to use the axe, from Alp himself - and like every other Pakistani, Afridi too admitted to being a huge fan of the show.
"Some of my friends were pushing me to watch this drama. When they told me it had 500 episodes, I said, 'Are you crazy'? My schedule was very busy. But once I went to Bangladesh for matches, that's when I started watching it, and this was one and a half years ago. I liked the drama so much, I finished it in just 40 days."
"My daughters were always saying, ‘Papa you're not giving us attention' and I would tell them it’s addictive. ‘Once you watch it, you'll see'. And now I’m rewatching it with them. When Halime died and Ertugrul cried, that made everyone cry in my home,'" said Afridi.
Surprisingly, Cengiz too admitted to watching every episode of Ertugrul.
"I was checking what I did, didn't do, where I went wrong," he admitted, revealing that using an axe wasn't part of his character's history but his own choice, in order to stand out as unique.
"I wanted every character to have a difference, a speciality for the story. I didn't want to be usual. I trained for three months everyday - riding horses and learning how to use weapons.”
For the all-rounder batsman, the message was very clear. "The show depicted how a real Muslim should be," said Afridi. "It brings out a message of peace, brotherhood, justice, and belief in Allah very purely."
Coskun revealed how very few people had faith in the show at the time of it was being made.
"When we started the story, everyone said we couldn't do it," the Turkish actor revealed. "I was only hoping one day it's going to be very famous in Islamic countries. Then when I heard that the show was being aired in Pakistan, I was hoping people would love it because of our country friendship and brotherhood. But this kind of response was more than I had even expected."
The star also took to thank Imran Khan for advising his countrymen to watch the drama, saying he realised the extent of his popularity through social media.
"I learnt about my popularity in Pakistan from Instagram. I had so many marriage proposals," he laughed. "I can't marry everyone!"
Mush to the dismay of his female fans, the Turkish actor also revealed that he was in a long-term relationship, but would love to visit Pakistan after everyone is safe.
Surprisingly, he was even open to the possibility of even working here. "If I see myself in the middle of a brilliant script, or some project excites me, I would love to be in it," he exclaimed.
Turgut Alp also addressed the awkwardness of Ertugrul being compared to popular series Game of Thrones, saying the costumes and historical moments were all real for them, whereas mostly imaginary for the latter.
"They are doing a good job." he settled, "but I think we are doing a great job."
With audiences binge watching the show like no tomorrow, we can say Pakistan agrees.