January 14th marks the 10th year anniversary of the broadcast of the inaugural episode of Adini Feriha Koydum, a widely acclaimed Medyapim production that aired on Show TV from January 14 2011 – June 29, 2012. It has often been one of the first Turkish dizis to enter new international markets beyond the traditional Middle Eastern buyers of Turkish fare.
In October 2015, it was the first Turkish series to air in India, a late adopter compared to its neighboring Pakistan, which licensed the show in 2013. Latin America was the next region where it broadcast 2015 – 2016. The show has left its deep mark in every territory it entered, evidenced by the immense fan reaction to the heart touching story of the young couple Emir and Feriha played by Cagatay Ulusoy and Hazal Kaya, respectively.
Feriha (Hazal Kaya), is the ambitious and intellectually gifted daughter of a maintenance man, who lives with his family in the basement of an apartment complex in an upper-class neighborhood of Istanbul. Residents in the building never allow Feriha to forget that she is the daughter of the lowly help, while her mother resolutely supports her dreams. Feriha earns a full scholarship to a prestigious, private university, where she meets and falls for a handsome and rich young man, Emir (Cagatay Ulusoy), who has his own inner wounds.
For fear of being treated as an outcast, Feriha feeds the misconception that she is from a rich family as well. The magnetic love between Emir and Feriha cannot be denied until he discovers the truth, which exposes the chasm between their socioeconomic and cultural values.
As their paths cross again and again, neither able to move away from the other, Adini Feriha Koydum is a coming of age story, where the protagonists push the boundaries of preordained paths on the power of their love.
A HERO’S JOURNEY
A few months ago, we published a post on North America TEN, that discussed how all of Cagatay’s past roles follow a hero’s journey, as defined by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book “The Hero With The Thousand Faces“. He says “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Based on this definition and other prior work that captures Campbell’s framework, we created the following graphic:
How does Emir Sarrafoglu fall into this framework in how he lives his journey with Feriha in Adini Feriha Koydum? What themes does the show cover that it appeals to such a wide demographic, from young to old, across so many cultures? Why does this young love story still resonate so deeply with hearts looking for love? The rest of the post will try to answer these, and more, as a 10th year tribute to this iconic production.
Emir Sarrafoglu in Adini Feriha Koydum
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Emir is the prince of Istanbul. A product of a broken family who hides it under the facade of being a coveted party animal, Emir can have any girl at the exclusive, private university he attends. Feriha, the daughter of a building manager in a wealthy neighborhood, earns a merit scholarship into the same university. She has only experienced the opulence of privilege through Cansu, one of the tenant’s daughter in her building where she and her family of five live in the basement.
As she steps into her university life where she is assumed to be from a similarly rich family as the rest of the students, Feriha is unable to tell the truth as she desires to be accepted for who she is as a person, and not get typecast as ‘the doorman’s daughter’. Supporting her life’s ambitions is her mother, who accepts domestic abuse of various kinds just so her daughter can grow up and follow her dreams.
In her silence, and through a string of credible misunderstanding of circumstances, Emir also assumes Feriha is part of his social peer group, and through their various interactions, he falls in love with her ambitious but kind, smart and grounded personality. Unable to burst the bubble, Feriha also finally gives into her feelings and enters into a relationship with Emir, without disclosing the truth. During this time, he becomes so enamored with her that he asks her to marry him, but the lie remains between them like a stone and Feriha refuses his heartfelt proposal.
All of this happens in the first part of Emir’s journey, where Feriha ‘fits’ into his ‘known’ world. Soon after, Emir discovers Feriha’s secret and is devastated with the depth of her lies.
Feeling betrayed, he ventures into the ‘unknown’ world of being without her, and punishes Feriha as he tries all sorts of ways to move past her. He rents an apartment in her building, hosts loud parties and various girls at home, treats her family with complete disdain and disrespect, all of which is an effort to show her that he is oblivious to her (his ‘rising action’).
During his tenure at the building, Emir discovers the depths of despair in Feriha’s life: her abusive father and brother, her classmates’ mockery when they discover the truth about her, the poverty within which she lives, her forced engagement to a deranged relative and more. When her life falls in perilous danger, he cannot help but come to her rescue because, in reality, he could never stop loving her (the acceptance is his ‘rebirth’).
Once he accepts his true love for her, Emir does not stop at anything to be with her. When her father and brother discover this forbidden relationship and are about to send her away after another violent beating, Emir kidnaps her and they run away into the mountains, where they also secretly get married.
Once the families discover the marriage, and everyone seems to be against them, Emir stands resolute by her side, even willing to take steps towards her family in an effort to mend bridges. When his own father disowns him, he starts to work to be able to support his life with Feriha (his ‘atonement’).
The long hours at work lead to many disagreements between Emir and Feriha. Despite his desire to grow his sense of ‘home’ with Feriha, circumstances, misunderstanding, her insecurities about herself and Emir lead to a deep chasm, and she leaves him.
Unable to forget her or stop his love for her, he continues his life with a sense of apathy. He doesn’t sell their apartment, he hires her brother into his business and he remains in regular touch with her father to make sure her family remains well. He had conquered the ‘unknown’ of the social divides that separated him from Feriha.
When Feriha finally returns as a successful businesswoman after three years and realizes the depth of her misconceptions that led to their parting, they finally decide to reunite again. They both acknowledge that their individual and collective journey were always destined to bring them together.
Despite a broken childhood and poor examples, Emir stood tall and chose better while his love for Feriha healed his wounds. He truly loved her for who she was – an ill-tempered, passionate but good-hearted young girl who wanted to be known as Feriha, and not just the janitor’s daughter or Emir’s wife. Even though the show has an unexpected and tragic end, Emir Sarrafoglu has become an iconic hero who was willing to fight all odds to be with his love.
Ten years after the fact, Emir and Feriha’s pairing is one of the most beloved dizi couples. Scores of fans across the globe adore this love story that confronts and offers so much to admire and resonate with.
The Perfect Role
Emir, as the upstanding, unwavering lover boy is a great first role for the very handsome Cagatay, who was fresh off the runway with his Best Model of Turkey win. And he brought more than good looks to the screens.
Cagatay also brought a soulful charisma whose acting skills improved by leaps and bounds as the story wore on and Emir, as a character, had to grow beyond what he knew of his immediate world. His resentment at being duped, his slow understanding of why Feriha might have lied about her roots, his selfless pursuit of her safety, his professional intergity and the personal prices paid because of them, and the loneliness of his existence in a life without Feriha, are all portrayed with a finesse that is unexpected from an actor in his inaugural role.
In short, Cagatay as Emir epitomizes the perfect life partner, who loved with all his heart the flawed Feriha.
Feriha portrays the struggles of many young girls looking to fit into pre-defined systems – whether it is driven by patriarchy or social class. Inspired by her mother’s resolve, she wants to stake a claim in the ground and establish her own identity but either she gets beaten down by the aggressive males in the family or by queen bees in a social class where she doesn’t fully belong.
When Emir falls in love with her, she knows he presumes her social status to be different than it is. She always feels dissonant because he loves her without the full story. When he discovers the truth, she willingly takes his wrath because 1) she knows she was wrong and 2) her world is defined by male domination where she has had to accept explosive behavior as part of the male persona.
Over time, Emir comes to understand on his own that Feriha’s past is rooted in difficulty, and he realizes that his love for her far surpasses any boundary defined by social precepts. His full acceptance gives her further strength to reach for her dreams, especially since her mother moved back to their village.
Marriage and Emir’s kindness help Feriha heal her distance with her father and brother, but she realizes that her burning need for her own identity remains as a distant aspiration as she has gone from being the defiant daugther to the dutiful wife. Through the early trials and tribulations in their marriage, Feriha loses faith that their love is enough to help her fulfill the dreams she has worked for all her life and, based on a massive misunderstanding, she has the courage to walk away from her marriage. And she builds something of herself even though she does not get over Emir.
It is beautiful that the couple is able to mend their distance years later, but this aspect of Feriha’s journey resonates very deeply with the female audience, who often feel that they lack the liberty of choice to reach for their dreams. In an incredibly nuanced performance, to watch Hazal as Feriha struggle so much and still not give up on her ambitions is an important message that lends to the love the audience feels for Hazal and Feriha. This is despite the fact that she plays the atypical heroine in how she expresses her inner strength and defiance of norms.
A young, good looking couple is merely a starting point for the chemistry between a television pair. For Emir and Feriha, despite their disparate stature, both actors did a great job of portraying the angst of two young people who are chasing meaning in life, as they come of age – together.
Their lengthy interactions through the many problems they face together help to create a strong sense of resonance with the various dynamics of their relationship. As an example, Episode 56 is almost entirely comprised of the two of them in an enclosed space, talking about the problems and misunderstanding they are facing in their relationship.
In their own ways, they were both trying to fit into a vision of a life they desire for themselves, which is a life-long journey for all of us. They make mistakes – some terrible ones – but they cannot deny their love for each other and make choices to lead with love. Their desire to remain devoted to one another through thick or thin appeals greatly to those of us who seek a monogamous, committed relationship.
Love beyond tragedy
Adini Feriha Koydum ended after 67 episodes but, due to the high popularity of the show, Medyapim wished to extend to a third season. Since Hazal Kaya had already accepted another role, she could not commit to the third season and this drove a rather unexpected and tragic end of the epic love story between Emir and Feriha. Cagatay reprised the role of Emir Sarrafoglu in a spin-off titled Emir’in Yolu, but it was short-lived because fans simply could not accept Emir with anyone other than Feriha. As such, for most of the fans, Emir Sarrafoglu only exists in the story told in Adini Feriha Koydum, where he lived an eternal love story with Feriha.
TEN YEARS & COUNTING
Emir & Feriha’s love defied convention and expectations, breeding hope in our quests in meaningful relationships and creating a life of meaning. Even though ten years have passed, girls and women of all ages still gush over Emir’s character and the love he lived with Feriha while they lived it.
As a tribute to their story, here is a fan video that celebrates the 10th anniversary of their timeless love:
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