It seems like a lifetime when Ertugrul was imposed as a bona fide hero by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Pakistan. If it was possible, Ertugrul would have been named the first Pakistani ever. But all the hard work didn’t go to waste after all. Ertugrul Ghazi, the father of the founder of Ottoman dynasty and the destroyer of infidels and stuff like that, landed in Pakistan to rule the hearts and minds of the citizens and even get a gig or two, or not.
When the statue of Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh was being vandalised for the second time at Lahore Fort, Erutgrul’s statues stood tall in a residential community in the city. The man arrested for breaking the arm of Ranjit Singh’s statue was a supporter of hard-line cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi and was of the view that Singh’s statue shouldn’t have been built at all because he committed atrocities against Muslims during his rule. At least Ertugrul’s statue, carrying a sword and riding a horse, faces no such sudden fury. Not only statues but a Sindhi inspiration of the Turkish show, Dirilis: Ertugrul, an Ertugrul Ghazi chicken shop and even Ertugrul Ghazi family restaurant have popped up in Pakistan.
The ambassador of a fraud
Engin Altan aka Ertugrul’s host in Lahore was a blingy TikToker and a local businessman. Mian Kashif Zameer himself is no less than a star, only if Neftlix discovers his talent of making friends in higher places and walking around with four kilograms of gold jewellery and keeping a lion as a pet. He could even get his own version of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Zameer roped in Altan as a global brand ambassador for his Chaudhry Group of Companies, signing a million-dollar deal. The chief minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar, facilitated the Turkish actor with a House Shield and a rifle. Altan even expressed desire to work in a Pakistani film or drama. Everything was looking up, it seemed as if PM Imran Khan had delivered on his promise of people coming from abroad to find jobs in Naya Pakistan. But then there was a twist in the kahaani.
The gold-laden TikToker turned out to be a wanted felon with as many as eight cases of fraud, robbery, betrayal of trust and car theft against him in Lahore, Toba Tek Singh and Sialkot. On Wednesday, police arrested Zameer in Lahore for threatening a local TV journalist for reporting on his criminal record. This is the Pakistani brand Ertugrul is an ambassador of.
Not only that, news reports suggested that Zameer only paid half of the promised $1 million to his ambassador. But Zameer, in an earlier statement, had said that haters are hating on him because he was the first one to bring Ertugrul to Pakistan and 50 per cent payment was part of the contract. Jealousy was the reason, according to him. However, no official statement has come from the Turkish actor so far.
You can profit only so much
All good things come to an end, but with such horror? That 4 kg gold is said to be only gold plated, the cars he uses aren’t his, the house he lives in isn’t owned by him. Was his clout of famous and powerful people real? And the pet lion, was it even asli? Zameer is Pakistan’s Bunty and Babli combined. As they say, Ertugrul ko chuna lag gaya. Wonder what the real Ertugrul with his Dirilis Axe would have done? Small mercies this Ertugrul isn’t the real one.
The trend of profiting from Ertugrul actors has continued throughout the year. The lead actress of the show, Esra Bilgic, also known as Halima baji (Halima Sultan) is now the face of a leading Pakistani clothes line, a mobile phone company, a telecommunication company and even a housing society. The same Halima baji whose posts on Instagram weren’t considered “decent enough”. But Ertugrul wasn’t lucky enough to even get a corner plot in Naya Pakistan — so much for the man who is a national hero.
In the past, Pakistani actors have spoken up against the government ignoring the talent at home while celebrating foreign content. In one scathing comment, actor Yasir Hussain had mentioned that local talent is “ghar ki murgi” and even garbage from abroad is considered profitable. Even in the times of coronavirus, when the industry has faced economic challenges, the government support has been missing while the focus remains on promoting Turkish dramas one after the other — that too, at a great diplomatic risk of irking the kingdom of Saudi Arabia by popularising Ertugrul.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.