The Ertugrul Phenomenon Sweeping Across Pakistan

The show Resurrection: Ertugrul has seen so much popularity in Pakistan that Engin Altan Duzyatan, the star who plays the titular role of Ertugrul, announced in a video that he will be visiting Pakistan today (18th of August) to meet make-a-wish foundation children, “Hello Pakistan, I will be meeting make-a-wish children on 18th of August, see you soon.”

For those unfamiliar with the show the question naturally arises as to what makes the show so popular among the Pakistani populace. It all began when Prime Minister Imran Khan, last year, advocated for the show to be dubbed in Urdu on PTV in order for the denizens of Pakistan to see “what made historical Muslims great”. Khan lamented that “our children know western heroes but do not know about Islamic history”, that Lollywood productions are second hand copies of Bollywood and Hollywood content, and that we need to change this by “sharing our perspective” with the world and even proposed an “English language channel” to do so.

Khan was of the opinion that watching Resurrection: Ertugrul would be beneficial in letting us “see how the Turkish empire rose to conquer half of Europe”.

Although Pakistan has enjoyed a cordial and long-lasting friendship with Turkey, shows such as Ishq-e-Mamnu and Mera Sultan still caused an uproar among Pakistanis who were against the content depicted in the shows and pushed for more local shows and more Islamized content. By advocating for a Turkish show with a righteous moral code, Khan might be hoping to unite together with other nations to promote an Islamic narrative to counter the anti-Islamic sentiments present in the world.

The show is based on the historical figure, Ertugrul Ghazi, son of Suleyman Shah of Oghuz descent, belonging to the ‘Kayi tribe’, who conquered many lands that eventually formed a part of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the term “Ottoman” is derived from the name of Ertugrul’s son, Osman, who founded the Ottoman Empire in around 1299. At its height the empire encompassed most of south-eastern Europe up to the border of Vienna, including present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

ErtugrulResurrection: Ertugrul has found popularity in Pakistan

Little is known of Ertugrul Ghazi himself, which means that the show is largely a work of fiction. Many have described the show as a “Muslim Game of Thrones”, and barring the gratuitous nudity and brutal violence of Game of Thrones, the description is more or less accurate as the show is set in a Medieval setting with scenes of great wars and battles. At its heart though, the show is a cliched love story between Ertugrul Ghazi and Halime Sultan, both honorable and righteous figures allied in their battle for what they believe in.

The show has become particularly popular in Pakistan, where it is even more pervasive and successful than it is in Turkey. Engin Altan is not the only actor who has enjoyed a following born out of the popularity of the show, Celal Al who portrays the character of Abdul Rehman Alp, wished Independence day to Pakistani fans on the 14th of August. “Mere Pakistani Behn Bhaiyo, Apko Youm-e-Azadi Pakistan Mubarak ho. Shuhada-e-Pakistan ko mera salam. (My Pakistani brothers and sisters, I wish you a very Happy Independence Day. Also Salam to the martyrs of Pakistan).”


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Esra Bilgic, the actress who plays the role of the beautiful Halime Sultan, in particular has found adoring fans in Pakistan, apparently leading her to land deals with three Pakistan-based brands, “We will meet when all this is over, when I will be working with Pakistani brands. I’m sharing, for the first time, that I’m about to work with three of Pakistan’s most loved brands. This will soon be announced by the press as well.” She already has appeared in advertisement for Jazz and is the brand ambassador for QMobile’s View Max Pro series.

In recent news, a new Pakistani web series Churails starring Sarwat Gillani has opened to much critical acclaim. If the viewership during the pandemic is anything to go by, the future of Pakistani audiences seems bright and seems to be veering away from the local dramas replete with double takes, overly dramatic sound effects, and ham acting.

About Sarmad Tariq

A self-professed "jack of all trades, master of none" with degrees in Computer Science and English Literature and a love for writing poetry that he seldom shares on social media.

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