If you are in the mood for a lighthearted RomCom that leaves you feeling happy at the end of each episode, Kanal D’s summer dizi Baht Oyunu fits the bill.
A young, orphan girl Ada Tözün (Cemre Baysel), who is raised by her two aunts, is a grand believer in the family superstition that if the girls in her family cannot unite with her first love, then she is destined to a lifetime of unhappiness. Three years ago, Ada stepped up and agreed to a ‘white marriage’ (a marriage of convenience without consummation) with her college mate from Albania, Rüzgar (İdris Nebi Taşkan), who was seeking citizenship in Turkey. She believes herself to be in love with Rüzgar and supports his academic career through working various odd jobs while she puts on hold her own career aspirations to be a writer. She is hopeful that after the mandatory three years of marriage to fulfill citizenship requirements, Rüzgar will finally propose to her out of his own free will. They share an apartment but she does the lion’s share of the household management, while Rüzgar pursues his ambitions.
Rüzgar has recently joined an Internet content platform as a photographer, where he lusts after one of the partners, Tuğçe (Aslı Sümen). Tuğçe lusts after the founder of the firm, Bora Doğrusöz (Aytaç Şaşmaz), who is a fiercely independent and disciplined businessman trying to make it on his own without the help of his rich and influential father. His firm focuses on relationship dynamics and he is often out on the prowl researching various aspects of couples’ dynamics, going undercover to carry out outrageous social experiments. Not knowing his identity, Ada has a run in with Bora when waiting on his table during one of his assignments, and eventually gets fired from her waitress job as a result of a misunderstanding with Bora. But Ada is not disheartened as she is still feeling happy from their successful meeting with the immigration officer earlier in the day, and she is convinced Rüzgar will really ask for her hand in marriage.
Ada drives her yellow VW Beetle, a car that is just as full of character as Ada herself, over to Rüzgar’s office, only to chance upon him in a liplock with Tuğçe, who had pounced on him in a desperate bid to make Bora jealous. Distraught that Rüzgar’s betrayal means Ada is doomed to a horribly sad future, in her distracted state she gets into a fender bender with Bora.
Through a comical turn of events, Ada, unwilling to allow Rüzgar’s betrayal to ruin her life, secures a job at BizdeBoyle.net as Bora’s personal assistant. She hopes to get Rüzgar to change his mind and decide to remain with her so that she can defeat the string of bad luck experienced by the women in her family. As Bora’s personal assistant, Ada meets and bonds with Bora’s orphaned five year old niece, Elif (Azra Aksu), who is particularly attached to Bora even though she has doting grandparents to run after her. Ada’s unpretentious ways are not lost on Bora, a resolute bachelor who does not believe in love, and begins to feel conflicted about the ways he’s drawn to Ada.
We also meet Ada’s aunts Nergis (Hande Subasi) and Yasemin (Tuğba Çom Makar), who live in Bursa. Nergis is the elder of the two and decides to marry and love a man who will love her. Aslan (Emrah Ben), an endearingly dumpling of a man at least a foot shorter than Nergis, is protective of his women, including Ada. Even though Nergis didn’t marry the man she fell in love with, she stays true to her word and loves the man who was willing to love her. They seem to have an affectionate and considerate marriage. Yasemin, who shares a special bond with Ada and is equally comical in her escapades, has had a string of bad luck with men and just cannot seem to get through the last mile of getting married.
They come to visit Ada in Istanbul, and through some fun plot twists, Bora and Ada’s extended families meet. As everyone gets to know everyone, Bora and Ada gravitate towards each other despite themselves, and against the wishes of Bora’s mother. While Ada doesn’t fully comprehend what is happening, Bora begins to be self-aware of his growing attraction towards her. At the end of Episode 5, as he comes to Ada’s door to apologize for not believing her in a mix-up designed by Tuğçe, he may have come close to a confrontation with the truths Ada is hiding. Trailers from Episode 6 suggest new growth in their relationship as they attend a couples retreat together accompanied by Tuğçe and Rüzgar, who are also now engaged to be married.
Atypical, Smart Themes
If all this sounds like a lot happening in a short time, it is. The pace of this series is fast with relatively smooth transitions between the skits, that all tie to the main story. In this time, the protagonists have had several close encounters, from drunken misfortunes to falling asleep next to each other, serving jail time, getting stuck in the shower together, repeatedly offending each other (and promptly forgetting why), and engaged in several conversations that invites the audience to question gender stereotypes, without making it a poke in the eye and obvious trope.
As an example, in Episode 2, Bora has to take Ada to a work dinner, where she has to pretend to be his date. He is meeting a financier who will come with his wife, and Bora wants for Ada to keep the wife entertained by talking about feminine interests in TV shows, recipes, magazines etc., and Ada says that’s not all women talk about; “We gossip about guys!!”
Ada is an interesting role model for young girls. She’s intelligent, funny, goofy, passionate, energetic, compassionate, articulate, a dreamer with a vivid imagination, and so much more rolled into one. She does not pretend to be perfect, does not use her feminism as a weapon, and through all her (mis)adventures, one sympathizes with this orphaned girl who thinks she is doomed from keeping her promise to her dead mother about finding happiness in life.
Cemre Baysel as Ada Tözün is an absolute delight to watch and relate to. At only age 22, she has proved her mettle as an actor, going from playing supporting roles in dramas such as Pahtiyat Abdul Hamid, Ramo, to a lead role in Sol Yanim, playing a bulimic mean girl at university. Ada is her first comic character and her comic timing, expressions, mannerisms and gestures are flawlessly endearing.
Bora Doğrusöz is the quintessential uptight, brooding hero, who wears his shirts fully buttoned, whether paired with a tie or not. He is of slender but athletic build, and we have already gotten many views of shirtless Bora. In fact, it seems to be a theme that Ada walks in on shirtless Bora in various believable but comic scenarios. Bora is a driven businessman who has moved back with his parents to help care for his orphaned niece. He is closed off to love, presumably because of a past relationship that went sour. His favorite word to use on Ada is ‘Sus’ (be quiet!) as Ada runs off with her mouth and imagination, welcoming Bora into her stream of consciousness. He catches himself laughing with her, or being taken in by her natural and easy relationship with Elif. He has a growing admiration for her desire to be a writer and her willingness to take risks to live her dream. Aytaç Şaşmaz is a great fit for this role, with a reserved and polished demeanor, but a nimbleness to his movements that capture the youthfulness of a man who had to grow up far too early.
Through subtle but funny dialogues and scenarios, Baht Oyunu delivers handsomely on the promise of a RomCom. It doesn’t pretend to get overtly philosophical, does not try too hard to infuse explicit or smoldering passion between the leads, and pokes fun at the ways Ada keeps trying to reign Rüzgar back into her world, until she realizes that he is not worth the fight. Ada, being distracted by what she feels when Bora is too close, has started to manifest her dead cat Duman to redirect her mind. It is such a charming way to portray the discomfort a young girl of modest means might feel when confronted with the sexual appeal of a desirable man!
Baht Oyunu (Games of Destiny or Twists of Fate as the English title suggests) is the name of Ada’s young life’s best work to date; an article that hints at the differences between men and women and how men have enmity with women because women never stop believing in and chasing love. And then she gives a compelling description to what love means. How it’s about not giving up at the first bump in the road, not just about looking at each other. It’s about both looking in the same direction and that is when all the chaos starts. This, right here, is a message that is worthy of amplifying. Too many times stories merely portray the rosy aspects of love, and gloss over the hardships the two need to learn to navigate together.
If you haven’t started watching the show and enjoy Turkish RomComs, you may enjoy this lighthearted show. All the characters have a story thus far, and all the side plots lead into the main pair somehow, including a suspicious immigration officer played by veteran comedian Osman Cavci. Between a cad like Rüzgar to a gentleman like Bora, we see many shades of desirable and undesirable male attention. Similarly, between the ruthless desperation of Tuğçe and the heartfelt journey Ada is pursuing, we also see the many desirable and undesirable aspects of women as they chase love.
As Ada moves closer to disclosing the truth about her life to Bora, and the story moves towards a couple’s first major conflict, I can only hope that it will be handled with finesse, with an eye towards maintaining audience engagement with the promise of the clip pace for the show. The excitement from the growing fandom is palpable on social media as it waits for Tuesday, when Baht Oyunu will air on Kanal D at 8:00 pm Turkish time.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & mh musings/ @entrespire, twitter
All video clips and photos belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended. Please ask for permission before reprints. Please provide proper citations if referencing information in this article. Sources are linked in the article.