As a sixteen-year-old with a passion for tales about faraway places, exotic people and fantastical adventures I was fortunate enough to have a teacher with a love for a story at least equal to mine. He was an amazing creature himself, an extremely tall, beautifully groomed man, at least as handsome as a film star, which he could well have been had he lived and “been discovered” in Turkey. He had a rich, captivating voice which delivered the most memorable of Shakespeare’s lines with the precision and colour of a consummate actor. I, and a good many of my classmates fell in love with him and felt so privileged to be in his class. What Mr Cryer had was an abiding love of words, and he gave us many important ideas about how best to make use of them. His intellect was prodigious and his vocabulary of English words enormous. What we didn’t know, mainly because we were innocent kids and had no knowledge of such things at that time, was that our teacher was gay, and out there, a situation intolerable in schools much more desirable and upper class than hours, so that’s how we got him. Lucky us, that someone could spot the good in this wonderful teacher and put him in front of us. Unusual people scare the hell out of the establishment. (Cukur is full to brimming with unusual people).

One of the most important “rules” I remember from those days in the 1960s when the world was young and hopeful and I felt that anything was possible, anything at all, had to do with the idea of “the good”. That was the stuff of alchemy, from which one could create magic if one knew how to find it, transform and burnish it, then bring it to the world as an offering of which one could be proud. It could be found in all sorts of places and the best thing about the rules around “the good “when writing or being engrossed in creating the theatre which was his special teaching interest, was that there really were no rules, there was only the joy of creation.

So, when I hear Ceto talk about “ the good”, this being in CUKUR, ironically, a kind of code name for the raw stuff of which drugs are to be made and offered to the world, I am taken back to that classroom in Otahuhu, New Zealand in the sixties At that time, this was the poorest suburb in Auckland and I grew up there. We didn’t have any more than the people of Cukur have in 2018, but there were great characters who starred in excellent adventures, too, and they were “the good” with which Max Cryer helped us to create our own stories. It is my belief that “the good “in this remarkable story of Cukur is the people who create it, week after week for well over 100 hours now, and counting, and we are still spellbound, just as I was in that classroom in the 60s. The key for me then was finding, choosing and using words and ideas to create to the best of my ability. I believe that is what happens in every episode of Cukur.

The people who act in Cukur are often new to their craft and are likely to come from surprising places, as in the case of Kubilay Aka who is reputed to have been ‘spotted’ weighing luggage at an airline check-in counter. Or, in the case of Necip Memili, from a role as a most irritating and inept baddie in a sitcom whose main attraction was the hunky hero love-interest. One could describe the cast of Cukur as motley, but some have been prepared in earlier, similar works. Take Yamac, for example, and Muhittin, both graduates of Icerde.

The other kind of “good” in this weekly alchemical enterprise are those who do the measuring, weighing and mixing of the other ingredients, the direction and production teams, the backstage crew of all disciplines. A major mixing tool, if you like, is the musical creator who has made the music into intrinsic parts of each character and group in the series.

Another thing I heard from my English teacher was the importance of economy in language, a strategy which never comes easily to me. Some of you will probably nod vigorously in agreement with me. We were encouraged to do away with verbiage and pretentiousness and to pare back till we just had the words that matter. Mr Cryer said,
“Show me! Don’t tell me!” What mattered most, according to him, was what happened when there were no words. It could be an expression on a face in the crowd, a movement by a minor character, a sudden shift in the music volume, a darkening of the light. How much are these features of Cukur?

What picture do you create in your own mind when you see Vartolu dealing with the suppliers of “the good’ which is really “the bad” and which he needs to make drugs so he can save his wife and baby. What picture do you have of Salih meeting his infant son for the first time in this episode?

Or of his agony as Saadet and his boy are stripped away from him yet again.

“NO VIOLENCE TO WOMEN” reads a tag. What words could do anything to counter Ceto’s corrosive and unshakeable hatred of women as he dismisses Saadet’s plea for help when she is giving birth He is utterly dismissive of her need for a doctor, saying that”They (women) are always playing games”.

His sneer that all should wait until she “… pops it out” and his obvious disgust at the amniotic fluid on the floor from the rupture of her waters are only exceeded in awfulness by his anger that eventually she must be taken to a hospital because she is in terrible danger as her labour proceeds. What of her face as she refuses to open her legs to give birth in terror of the future that Mahsun has promised for her son? And what of the playful noise of the Karakuzu arm wrestlers drowning out Saadet’s screams of pain? What words?

How important are the words chosen and stammered over by Alico as he ‘cons’ Cumali into the courage to face his mother and father, parents who have long thought him dead? Do you remember the words or the sheer delight on Alico’s face as he realizes that he’s succeeded.?

As happens so often in Cukur, Alico’s arrival means that something to do with love is going to happen. And that love will most likely turn out to be unconditional. For, apart from the incessant violence that rules the factions in the drug world and the disciplinary procedures for ‘mistakes by the Karakuzu, procedures which could have been lifted from a manual for training the Hitler Youth, despite all the pain and suffering in this episode, it is ultimately about love. And about things getting better, slowly. About healing, at long last.

Sena says it so plainly and with quiet conviction when Idris asks what she thinks will happen to the Cukur family in the future. People have been far apart, unaware of themselves, let alone of anyone else except those in closest physical proximity. Who is still alive is uncertain, where people are located now even more difficult to know and the health and wellbeing of those who have survived a mystery in many cases. This Sena who has been quietly growing into a woman of assurance and competence as she sets about reconnecting parts of the Kocovali family puzzle is sure that,
‘We’ll heal, Dad. Do we have any other choice?’

Quite a lot of the story of Episode 44 of Cukur has been told before we are at this point with Idris, Sena and then Yamac. I think this scene marks an important change of direction, because Idris takes back some authority and asks Yamac to do an important task in the family’s name, rather than assume that his son will take charge as a matter of course, Idris, after a good deal of encouragement from Emmi, in particular, is picking up the reins again, though he is more easy with power-sharing than in the past. He also seems somewhat tentative, perhaps more afraid of failure than in the past.

Th emergence of hope, reconciliation and connections between people are major themes this week. The strength and capability of Kocovali women are key factors in the way that old responsibilities are picked up by the men. As well, what their wives have to say to Yamac and Selim is straight to the point and, I think, very effective but Meliha is brutal. She cannot abide the weakling she perceives Idris to now be, nothing like the hard man with the flashing eyes who had been her lover in the past and for whom she had been prepared to die. He turns up at her door with a list of grievances and excuses about the things that he has lost or which have gone badly for him. Meliha tuns on him,
“Stop fooling yourself, pressing yourself and stop pitying yourself. Or don’t come to my door again.” She slaps, Idris, kisses him and then pushes him out the door. Meliha doesn’t do wimps!

Sultan returns to the world of the living with the reappearance of Cumali. The men of the family are beginning to return to their parents and the healing has begun.

Idris is stunned, however, to see so many of the younger men returning to him. They are just as delighted to see him. There is something of the old lion in him as he sets up, with Emmi, the rescue of a young woman from a life of sexual slavery, responding at long last to the pleas of a Cukur mother who also, like Meliha, remembers the Idris of old. Emmi is relieved and his frustration with the inaction of his old friend begins to subside.

When he realizes the plight of Celasun, damage to his family’s youngest, most wounded and fragile of granddaughters, Idris is instrumental in bringing some peace to the young man. It ‘s startling to me to realise that Celasun is only twenty years of age and has dealt with so much. His relief at Yamac’s kindness, late though it is, suggests the possibility of healing. He has Sena’s support and kindness to his wife already to build on and Sena reassures him that Aksin is getting better physically but still has soul sickness.

A little while back I saw a list of queries from a Turkflix member who was not happy with the unanswered questions, mysteries and frustrations conjured up by the makers of Cukur. I smiled as I read it because I had only just picked up on the answer to a conundrum that went back almost to the beginning of Series 1. That’s what the writers DO, in this multi-whodunnit, family saga, soap opera, crime serial. They keep us jumping all over the place with red herrings, suggestions and downright lies!! That’s what I love about Cukur. I never know what outrageous thing is on its way. And I laugh every week.

This week it was the mad shootout with Vartolu, Medet and a whole lot of inept bully boys in a toy store that had me howling with laughter. The cast and crew must really enjoy such lunatic stuff. I do.

What I’ll probably remember most about this chapter is the power of parent-child bonds, new ones as for the newest, smallest Kocovali and his parents who have both suffered too much and older ones as for the sons of Idris and Sultan who are finding their way back home. Aunts and uncles will be in my memory as well as will the kindness being relearned by Cumali and offered to Medet and his growing love for Alico who is the talisman and touchstone for all.

“BURY ME IN CUKUR” reads the graffiti. I’ll also remember the courage of Yamac stepping out onto the streets of Cukur, as before and leading the men in a long overdue funeral procession to honour Muhittin, the Barber of Cukur and father of Meke, whose, rage, unacknowledged grief and need for love are finally recognized.

He has been allowed to express his bitterness and to ask questions of Idris that he would never have dared in the past, but it all boils down to this;
“I couldn’t bury my father in the CUKUR. His grave is so far away. No-one was with me.” What he has not known is that many other people had such losses and were on their own. Idris asks Yamac why this has been so and tells him to support both Celasun and Meke, this being part of his role as the future leader of Cukur.

The funeral service and photographs on display are acts of solidarity, defiance and ultimately of love in an environment where love does live out loud very often. Two graffiti examples best illustrate the soul-relief such an act can bring to the people of CUKUR:

I won’t forget the rage on Mahsun’s face as the mourners come out onto the streets, nor will I stop worrying about Sena who has only been kept from his amorous ambitions and, I suspect, inevitable brutality, through coincidental events. I hope she will be able to deal with him next week. Or, in keeping with the writer’s annoying habit of leading us down a garden path and then leaving us there, that a plot twist will save her instead.

As always, there’s just too much each week to comment on it all. I wanted to introduce you all to Mr Cryer. It’s because of him that I write stuff like this. I mean whoever imagined a New Zealand granny, Rugby fanatic, cricket tragic, Turkish TV addict, retired teacher of English and Drama and school guidance counsellor, writing reviews of a Godfather-type family saga (amongst other things!) from the middle of Istanbul? It’s just too unlikely. Mr Cryer could easily have imagined it and would have been proud to be mentioned, I’ m sure.
He eventually fronted a long-running TV quiz programme called “University Challenge” and authored several books about his favourite subject, WORDS. He was doing this well into his eighties…

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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