Life Before Erkenci Kus: Can Yaman and A Look Back to Inadina Ask ©
By Teddie Potter
Notes: This article contains spoilers. I accept full responsibility for any grammatical misuse/misspelling of my favorite Turkish words.
The Leap of Faith
The jump from Turkish drama to romantic comedy was a huge leap of faith for me, so it was imperative that I be captivated immediately or go home. My real-life world needed some comic relief, and when friends were urging me to try Erkenci Kus (“Early Bird”), I hesitantly chose to test the waters. Well, the campy and stylized “Gunaydin” (“Good morning” in Turkish) musical opener pulled me right in! And because I recalled Demet Ozdemir from her dramatic role in Kurt Seyit ve Sura, I was also curious to see what she had to offer. The upshot: I adored the love story of Can and Sanem, the ensemble cast, and the other accoutrements of satisfying Turkish television: culture clashes, loving family relationships, food spreads, tea all day and night, and a happy conclusion.
Like many of us, Erkenci Kus was also my first exposure to Yaman, who portrays the uniquely crafted and larger-than-life character of Can Divit. With his showcased physicality of well-defined muscles, flowing hair, expressive eyes, and lots of glowing skin decked out in his hand-picked wardrobe (and sometimes wearing very little of it), my first thought was that Yaman ran the danger of being hopelessly typecast and forever objectified. Not one for tabloids, paparazzi, or celebrity drama, I was more intrigued by Yaman’s past work as an actor, and eager to see other dimensions of his abilities on screen. So, I went back in time to one of his earlier works, the 2015-2016 series Inadina Ask (“Love Out-of-Spite”), to see if there really was life before Erkenci Kus.
Is Can Yaman, like, REAL?
Let me get down to business and get the physical stuff out of the way first. This Can Yaman is some five years younger with a lot less beard, which means you can really see his dimples. The hair is shorter but impressively thick; the voice is smooth; and the eyes, well, they are uniquely his. In Inadina Ask, his portrayal of Yalin Aras, the head of a family technology firm, is not the ripped and muscular Can. In fact, the intriguing character of Can Divit is nowhere to be seen, which is exactly what I was hoping for.
Inadina Ask: Introducing Defne and Yalin
Yalin Aras, accomplished businessman, protector and devoted brother to the pampered yet lovable Yesim, is also a man with a wounded heart. In the sensitive way of men in Turkish television, this wound is not rooted in the loss of a love interest. Rather it is from the loss of his mother, who left a school aged Yalin and a baby Yesim in the care of others and went off to pursue other dreams.
Yalin is not the first character we meet as this series opens. That character is the irrepressible and impulsive Defne Barutçu. Even her five-year-old nephew states the naked truth: Defne is a blabbermouth. She is chatty and talks a lot, often to herself. She was raised with three fiercely protective brothers; however, managing their expectations of what constitutes proper behavior for their only sister takes quite a bit of skill. To this end, Defne’s toolbox is well-stocked. Her verbose explanations and convoluted excuses often serve to distract and deflect from the matter at hand. But unfortunately, Defne’s toolbox also includes her reliance on some very creative fibbing. More on that later.
Apparently coming from the Black Sea Region translates into having short tempers and combative personalities. Even Defne carries this gene, keeping a crowbar at the ready in case of road rage. But she is as tender as a lamb when it comes to those she loves. While it may seem improbable at first, the new viewer must embrace all that is Defne to enjoy this series. Embracing Defne is the key to Yalin’s happiness—and ours too as we view their story.
He Said What??
An early warning is in order when considering many of the attitudes of the male characters towards the females in their lives, including their very vocal opinions about wardrobe choices and expectations for female behavior. Case in point: the relationship between Defne and Yalin is put into motion early in the first episode when Defne’s hot-headed brother, Cinar, has serious objections to Defne’s outfit choice for her first day at work at Aras Technology. Suffice it to say that the ensuing altercation between Yalin and Cinar leaves them bruised and bloodied, while a half-dressed Defne furiously zooms away in her little pink car, leaving the red stilettos she hurled at both Yalin and Cinar lying on the parking lot pavement. And this, ablacim, is the beginning of the respectful but volatile bromance between Yalin and Cinar.
Embracing Defne’s World
To understand Defne is to love Defne. Beautiful and spontaneous, crafty, and explosive, Defne is uniquely imperfect. Beneath her seemingly madcap persona is her skillfulness as a computer engineer which is her entry into the world of Aras Technology. There Defne bonds with Yesim, we meet Yalin’s playboy cousin Deniz, and are introduced to the character of Damla. In true Turkish dizi-style, Damla is the girl you love to hate who becomes the girl you will love to love because her heart is true.
The Barutçu brothers run a successful shipping business. Their family has mountain country roots, totally unlike the more aristocratic Aras clan. When the edgy and brawling Cinar Barutçu and the delicately posh Yesim Aras fall instantly and deliriously in love, the term “opposites attract” moves to a different level entirely, often with hilarious results. I leave the word “strapless” for you to ponder but be ready to hear Cinar’s unique pronunciation of “strraappLESSS!!”
Meanwhile, Defne and Yalin’s mutual attraction grows to include Yalin’s frequent trips up the fire escape into Defne’s bedroom window. No worries there, because their cozy overnight snuggling gives us some lovely moments of intimacy that are still chaste enough to keep the Turkish censors happy.
The Barutçu household grows more complicated when their grandmother (babaanne) moves back in. Sassy and outrageously meddlesome and bossy, nothing escapes her notice or her sarcasm. Defne’s elder brother, the ever-scowling Toprak, also rejoins the family home, keeping a close eye on his ex-wife Leyla and their much-loved son. Leyla’s sister Ezgi falls hard for Yalin’s cousin Deniz, but her jealous insecurity jeopardizes their happiness even as Deniz is ready to commit himself exclusively to her.
The Aras Clan
Tucked away behind high walls and privacy hedges, the Aras mansion is home to Yalin, Yesim, and Deniz, and ruled by Süreyya Aras, their distinguished and respected grandfather (baba dede). Meftune, the devoted housekeeper, cook, and mother hen helps to maintain peace and order. Yalin, reliable and circumspect, is entrusted with the leadership of the family business, with Yesim and Deniz under his employ. It is a household full of love and respect, despite Deniz’s playboy ways and Yesim’s dramatic turns. Baba dede adores his brood and upholds the family reputation with stern kindness and tolerance.
Can Yaman plays Yalin Aras with loose-jointed ease and humor, interwoven with moments of moving vulnerability as the persona of Yalin is revealed. As this character, he smiles often and generously, in notable contrast to his role as Can Divit in Erkenci Kus. Each time Yalin smiles, it is like being let in on some huge happy secret previously unrevealed. Ablas, I was in the desert and I found the oasis!
On a more serious note, as the deeper and darker shadows of Yalin’s feelings unfold, his pain is palpable, and this is very credibly shown by Can Yaman. His acting style in these moments can be subtle but his eyes tell all. Some have dismissed this actor as shallow, one-dimensional, or simply as “eye candy”. It is said that “The eyes are the windows of the soul”, and in so many different ways, Can Yaman delivers this in spades.
Defne comes to learn more about Yalin’s childhood loss of his mother, and the pain and bitterness that Yalin continues to carry into his adulthood. Here Can’s acting skills shine as he stubbornly refuses to engage with anyone, including his sister, when it comes to this topic. As he gradually opens his heart to Defne, his willingness to share his feelings with her is a most precious gift and he plays it with tender skill. He forgives her for snooping high and low to find a hidden box that could hold the secrets of Yalin’s mother. Once it is discovered, they settle down in his hideaway treehouse to go through the contents of the box together. In a moving portrayal, Can infuses Yalin’s journey with all the open trust and hopefulness it deserves. This scene was heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.
Uff, Defne, Uff!
Alarmingly, and in true Defne style, her heart and brain part ways. She does something so egregious, so emotionally dangerous, that the aftermath threatens Yalin’s relationship with his sister Yesim and shakes his trust in Defne to the core. Defne has searched for and found Yalin’s mother, and she plans a well-intentioned but terribly misguided mother and child reunion. Unfortunately, this has set Defne on a sorry road of deception, with multiple utterances of untruths (or if you are feeling charitable, you may call them “Therapeutic Lies”), and she pays for this in a big way. Throughout the emotional fallout of betrayal and separation, Defne loses Yalin but not his love. A hurt Yalin is a difficult Yalin. Brooding, even surprisingly cruel at times, yet he is still in love. Even while angry and in pain, Can’s presentation of Yalin never lets the viewer believe he no longer loves Defne, making his performance even more nuanced. Through a journey of tenacity, patience, self-discovery, and a boatload of comedic events, Defne and Yalin find their way back to each other.
Sound Bites and Music
Inadina Ask also serves as a musical showcase that has led me to discover more cool Turkish music. Deniz Aras is played by Cem Belevi, a well-known Turkish pop singer who shares his talent in this series. The actors portraying the Baruçu brothers belt out Black Sea folk songs in surprisingly fine voices. A wedding scene includes multiple performances and features Gokhan Turkmen, who sings the theme song of the series. The Turkish section of my Apple Music library continues to grow.
From the opening song to the unique musical theme for each of the couples, to the wacky canned “audience” sound bites which punctuate moments of hilarity, the soundtrack is an integral part of this series and truly adds to the fun. Potentially dangerous moments are consistently predicted with a foreboding “Spaghetti Western” type tune, causing me to laugh out loud even before the on-screen mayhem begins. We are already familiar with how the soundtracks of Turkish TV just will not leave you alone. Exactly what music is running through your head all day long is strictly dictated by the dizi you are currently watching. Thanks to this show, I have many new earworms to contend with.
Girl Fights and Male Bonding
Inadina Ask includes a few jealousy-fueled girl fights. Neither chic Yesim nor the studious Ezgi can resist a good hair-pulling brawl. Meanwhile, in neighborhood cafes, plenty of Raki goes down when the men get together. This results in moments of tearful commiseration, slurred expressions of camaraderie, and explosive misunderstandings just as quickly forgiven as they stagger home, propping up the ones too inebriated to walk. Everyone is safely tucked in as the night draws to a close.
Late to The Party
Clearly, another season of Inadina Ask was anticipated as new characters continued to join the cast late into the run of the series. Two latecomers, Polat, the third and perhaps most volatile of the Baruçu brothers, is accompanied by his own hilariously giddy theme music. He may have met his match in Deniz’s outrageous and rebellious sister, Nehir, aka “Blue Head”. Throw in a village girl, Habibe, with an Instagram following of thousands and a lifelong delusional crush on Defne’s brother, Cinar. Add a guy with multiple personalities, Adem/Iblis, who drives around with a caged parakeet belted into the passenger seat. His transformation from the sweet Adem to a murderous Iblis and back again is extremely funny to behold. Finally, we have Asli, Yalin’s ex-girlfriend, an understanding friend whose couch has accommodated several crashers, including Yalin during his darker days.
Censorship 2015—Those Were the Days
In terms of censorship, this show enjoys a lot more freedom in depicting love scenes than current shows. The lack of displayed passion in today’s Turkish series tends to feel unrealistic, and I find it interferes in character development. Inadina Ask has far less of such constraints and even while depicting scenes of passion, still remains relatively modest. Speaking of passion, though, I am thinking specifically about a rain-soaked snogging scene between Defne and Yalin. This is towards the end of episode 8, for those who may wish to confirm for accuracy purposes. Also – surpreeeze—jumping way ahead to episode 30, after a hilarious marriage ceremony that takes place under the table, the delicious wedding night scene between Yalin and Defne does NOT fade to black quite as soon as you would expect.
All That Glitters is Not Inadina Ask
Inadina Ask is far from perfect. The first-time viewer may lose their way early, especially if they find the chatty Defne way too over the top. Defne IS over the top, and that is one of the reasons I stuck with this series. Once she meets up with Yalin in the very first episode, and especially after she threw her shoe at him, I was pretty much hooked.
I tried hard not to press the fast-forward button during many of the quick-action, screwball comedy-style vignettes, reminiscent of silent movie days, feeling they used up precious screen time. Speaking of old-time reminiscence, these loving and protective brothers are also total Neanderthals at times, rattling my Western feminist sensibilities and causing me some very painful eyerolls. I pity the actor playing Toprak (Taner Rumeli). I am convinced he must have endured severe facial pain due to his on-screen, semi-permanent scowl. Be prepared for males sternly demanding food, coffee, and general female obedience; the worst offense being Toprak’s outrageous incarceration of Defne in her own bedroom. Keep in mind, though, that the fire escape is still there…
If you are looking for a final spoiler, you will not find one here because, maalesef (unfortunately), this series does not have an actual ending. Falling victim to lagging ratings and short funding, the “final” episode closes with several story arcs left forever unfinished. For me, knowing this in advance helps soften the sting of the non-ending. Fortunately, Yalin and Defne are very much together all the way to the non-end.
Can IS the Man!
Yes, there was most definitely life in Can Yaman before the Can Divit experience of Erkenci Kus. In Inadina Ask, Can delivers a solidly perfect performance in a less than perfect series, creating an appealing and sensitive character. Yes, he has lovely dimples, and smiles a lot and his physique is promising. These are superficial and secondary issues but lovely, nonetheless. His repertoire is admittedly small with only five series to his credit. But I was willing to go further back on his career timeline, and hopefully soon go forward, to see more of what this actor has done and what the future of Can Yaman will reveal.
Copyright by Teddie Potter 2020