Turkish Dramas Take Center Stage : ‘Selahaddin Eyyubi’ Set to Captivate Indian Audiences

Tehelka Correspondent

In recent years, Turkish dramas have emerged as a perennial favorite among Indian audiences, captivating viewers with their compelling storytelling, rich cultural narratives, and stellar performances. The unique blend of drama, romance, and historical elements in Turkish series has struck a chord with Indian viewers, fostering a growing appreciation for the diversity and excellence of Turkish television productions. Against this backdrop, the eagerly anticipated release of the dubbed version of “Selahaddin Eyyubi” jointly produced by Akli Films and Ansari-Shah Production, in India is poised to further solidify the country’s love affair with Turkish dramas, promising an immersive experience for audiences eager to explore the world of international television. The series has recently been released in Turkey on TRT.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Kashif Ansari, one of the masterminds behind “Selahaddin Eyyubi,” opens up about the intricacies of the production. As the much-anticipated dubbed version prepares to hit Indian screens at the end of January, Dr. Ansari shares insights into the challenges faced, the global resonance of the Turkish release in December, and the meticulous efforts invested in bringing this epic tale to audiences worldwide.

Can you share insights into the journey of producing “Selahaddin Eyyubi”? What were the challenges faced during the production of such an expansive historical series?

Dr Ansari—Creating Selahaddin Eyyubi on a grand scale posed significant challenges. The primary hurdle involved meticulously gathering accurate information from the vast array of historical sources, as blending fiction and facts is a delicate task. Our dedicated team of Turkish researchers and historians extensively combed through history books and biographies to ensure an authentic portrayal of the warrior king that resonates with the modern world. Now is the opportune moment to propagate Selahaddin’s principles of equality, justice, and kindness globally. Moreover, overcoming the language barrier for our non-Turkish speaking actors demanded extra efforts to achieve fluency in the language.

Given the success of series like “[Diriliş] Ertugrul” internationally, how do you envision “Selahaddin Eyyubi” resonating with a global audience, especially in India?

Dr Ansari—The question at hand is undeniably intriguing. Ertugrul has achieved remarkable success globally, resonating deeply with audiences and cultivating an expansive fandom, particularly for its lead actors and actresses. Acknowledged by historians and producers alike, Ertugrul is recognized as a work of fiction. In stark contrast, Selahaddin Eyyubi distinguishes itself as a meticulously researched masterpiece, although the journey was arduous due to the vast information surrounding the king, where every fact holds significance. Comparing the two would be unjust, as Ertugrul primarily portrayed a Turkish national hero within a nation-centric theology, whereas Selahaddin transcends boundaries by focusing on the broader human race. Emphasizing principles like peaceful co-existence regardless of religion, nationality, or region, Selahaddin’s universal appeal promises a more profound impact on the audience, given its broader scope beyond a specific region.

Can you elaborate on the strategic decision to release a dubbed Hindi version and how you expect this to enhance the accessibility of the series in India?

Dr Ansari—It is crucial to emphasize that Selahaddin Eyyubi’s regal persona and grandeur extend to international stature. The world is in need of a leader like him more than ever, making this an opportune time to delve into the life of someone who significantly contributed to making the world a better place during his reign. Our primary focus is on the Hindi/Urdu speaking audience in the Indian sub-continent, and we are currently in discussions with several OTT platforms and channels. The ongoing effort to dub the series in Hindi is progressing well and will be completed soon, making Selahaddin Eyyubi accessible to the Indian audience. It’s important to note that our objective extends beyond entertainment; we aim to strengthen global human connections by identifying common ground and shared challenges. The most prominent common issue we face is a lack of respect and acceptance for one another. This is why we chose Selahaddin, as he advocated for love, peace, and peaceful co-existence, providing a powerful narrative to foster understanding and unity.

How do you ensure that the essence and cultural nuances of the series are preserved in the dubbed versions for a diverse international audience?

 Dr Ansari—Selahaddin, as historical records affirm, was a wise and just ruler. His commitment to justice, undeterred by factors like color, caste, creed, or religion, coupled with a steadfast belief in equality, represents universal values that underpin every society. Given the resonance of these principles with people worldwide and the shared cultural ground in the Indian sub-continent, cultural nuances remain preserved. Simultaneously, meticulous attention is being given to prevent the loss of meaning in translation, a common challenge in dubbed series. The dubbed script has undergone rigorous scrutiny by experts to maintain the essence. Recognizing and respecting cultural, religious, and regional differences, our goal with Selahaddin Eyyubi is to convey a message of understanding and unity to the audience.

You mentioned that Selahaddin offers hope with his values of justice, kindness, and compassion. How do you believe the series will resonate with viewers, especially in today’s challenging times?

Dr Ansari—At the core of Selahaddin’s rule lay the paramount principles of equality and justice, emphasizing humanity above all. He consistently advocated for a society where preferential treatment was not granted based on religion, race, or economic and social status—a stark contrast to contemporary challenges such as the widening rich-poor divide, human rights violations, and oppression. Addressing these issues requires leaders with a strong commitment to justice, achievable only through fostering peace and acceptance. This interconnected loop forms the foundation upon which everything else operates. Selahaddin Eyyubi vividly portrays a time when justice, equality, and peace prevailed. The series serves as a catalyst for contemplation, prompting us to reflect on the world we wish to leave for our children—a world plagued by differences, animosity, where peace is a rare luxury, and equality an unfamiliar concept. Additionally, it serves as a valuable lesson for global leaders on implementing laws without biases.

How did you go about selecting Uğur Güneş for the lead role, and what qualities did you believe he brought to portray the warrior king effectively?

Dr Ansari—Uğur Güneş stands out as a top-tier actor in the Turkish industry, showcasing remarkable versatility across television, theatre, and cinema. His prowess in acing roles, regardless of genre, is evident throughout his career. When we presented the concept of Selahaddin Eyyubi to him, Güneş eagerly embraced the opportunity. While we approached other A-list actors, Güneş ultimately secured the role due to the finesse he consistently brings to the screen.