Ever since Ertugrul stormed on to national television, 'speaking' Urdu and flashing his sword as he vanquished the wicked, Pakistan has been smitten.
There have also been plenty of debates on how Pakistani producers need to create similar local content since it’s such a hit with audiences. The argument had also been raised that a private Pakistani producer couldn’t possibly afford to invest in a series of Ertugrul’s stature.
A solution to this imbroglio was recently put forward: a Pak-Turk collaboration. A joint venture between Pakistan and Turkey would not only strengthen political ties and goodwill between both countries but would also benefit their respective entertainment industries, with artists collaborating together on a single project.
It turned out that Tekdin Films, one of the Turkish producers of Dirilis: Ertrugrul, also considered this to be a good idea. In an announcement some months ago, actors and producers Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed had revealed that a collaboration was very much underway.
Tekdin Films had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr Kashif Ansari of Ansari Films and TRT Films which would lead to a collective project and Adnan and Humayun would be overseeing casting and production related decisions in Pakistan.
“This could make Pakistani entertainment go international,” Adnan had told me at the time, obviously referring to how a Pakistani original series is yet to air on a major OTT platform like Netflix or Amazon. Certain Turkish productions, on the other hand, were already major hits worldwide. A collaborative effort could help Pakistan finally reach the lofty heights of internationally acclaimed online content providers.
“You’ll know more soon,” Adnan had also promised. And now, we do know a lot more about the Pak-Turk venture that is already being scripted and is scheduled to begin shooting once the casting and logistical considerations have been ironed out. A grand, star-studded dinner in Karachi this past weekend was organised in honour of Kamal Tekdin of Tekdin Films as well as other Turkish delegates, which included Celal Al, who played the role of Abdur Rahman Alp in Ertugrul.
And a story, it turns out, has been formulated …
In an official statement issued by the production team, the first Pak-Turk collaboration is going to be based around the Khilafat Movement, which was spearheaded by Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar and Shaukat Ali Johar in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
Also part of the movement was Abdur Rahman Peshawari, a migrant from Jammu Kashmir who had settled in Peshawar and had actively gathered funds and men to aid the flailing Ottoman Empire. Lala Peshawari, as he had been known at the time, had then set off on a ship and on reaching Turkey, had fought two battles as part of the Ottoman army.
He was declared a ‘Ghazi’ (a fighter for faith) and was sent by the Turks to Afghanistan as an ambassador. There, he became well known as ‘Lala Turki’ and was unfortunately assassinated due to a case of mistaken identity.
According to the producers, the story of ‘Lala Turki will be retold in the form of three seasons, 30 episodes each. The episodes will be broadcast simultaneously in Pakistan as well as Turkey and are slotted for release in 2023, a year that is significant for Turkey since it earmarks its 100 years of independence. This series is a way of acknowledging the ongoing support and friendship between Turkey and Pakistan.
The Pakistani contingent
The question remains, though, of how many Pakistani artists will be part of the series? “At least 50 to 60,” says Adnan Siddiqui. “It’s a story that spans both Pakistan and Turkey so a lot of Pakistani actors will be needed.”
Will the title role of Lala Turki be played by a Pakistani or a Turk? “The casting hasn’t been determined yet. But the script is being written and it’s going to be finalised soon,” says Adnan.
And Humayun Saeed and he may currently be looking over the production details but will we also be seeing them act in the series? Again, that’s not confirmed. “We will primarily be acting as executive producers,” says Adnan.
The early 1900s, the time during which Lala Turki lived, was a tumultuous time in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Movements for independence were gathering pace and dynamic Hindu and Muslim leaders were emerging. While focusing primarily on the Khilafat Movement, it is also planned that the series will depict the historical backdrop: for instance, the vision of Allama Iqbal and the leadership of Jinnah.
Images posted by both Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed some weeks ago showed them and Dr Kashif Ansari meeting up with CPEC Chairman General Asim Saleem Bajwa. Government support will evidently be needed in order to allow permission for shooting in certain locations and facilitation of visas. “It’s an extensive production and funds will also be needed,” points out Adnan.
In a recent post on Instagram, Humayun Saeed also acknowledged the government’s support in the upcoming project, saying that he “would like to especially thank Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi as well as our esteemed ministers Mr Shibli Faraz and Mr Shehryar Afridi who have all extended their full support in bringing this historic project to life which will be shot in and feature actors from both countries...”
It’s exciting news. And unlike many announcements in the past, where international projects would be planned out only to fizzle out shortly afterwards, Lala Turki may just become a reality. Both Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed have been posting updates regularly and soon, the casting process will begin.
It’s an unprecedented collaboration but one that makes a lot of sense, given Pak-Turk goodwill and the success of Turkish shows in Pakistan. And some of our most popular heroes would look great, vanquishing evil with swords on horses.
We’re keeping our eyes peeled for more updates.