By Jovaria Naseem
Hangi cehennem çemberini seçerdin? “Which circle of hell would you choose?”
Adapted from Dr. Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu book of the same name, Camdaki Kiz is the tale of Nalan, a beautiful young woman who earns everyone’s love at first sight with her warmth. Since she is the only child of her family, she is raised in a very protective environment, sheltered like a rose from the outsiders. She graduated from the best schools with honors.
Nalan suddenly finds herself with Sedat Koroğlu while working as an architect at the company of Turkey’s largest hotel chain, the Koroğlu.
Although Nalan and Sedat start to walk hand in hand in this tale with hope, thinking that they are getting away from the dark secrets they have kept in their past, their lives will soon be plunged into real darkness.
Despite the apparent abundance of luxury and comfort, Nalan is unhappy because she does not receive affection from her family or husband. When she loses her unborn child, she withdraws from everything; but her whole life changes with Hayri.
Nalan, who is separated from her husband for the love of Hayri, an uneducated man 7 years her junior, faces new complications. Hayri is a married man with 3 children, but Nalan chooses to accept this because she loves him too much.
When hopes are perished & buried in the dark
The opening sequence of the series shows Feride burying a box & planting a tree on top of it. This powerful play of imagery & symbolism emphasizes that something dreadful & heart-breaking has transpired. A repeated juxtaposition of ugliness hidden under the veneer of exquisite splendor.
When her granddaughter is born, Feride decides to write her destiny in pain, sorrow & grimness. She names the newborn child “Nalan,” which in Urdu means ‘to weep’ and ‘the one who cries’ in Turkish. Her husband Adil raises an eyebrow but utters nothing, does not object.
The name proves to be an apt choice for a tragic character like Nalan; as if destiny pre-determined her unhappy fate. Keeping to the underlying theme, Nalan’s name contrasts the floral-hued couture, vintage decor & walls in her environment, which carries through to the deliberate choice of beautiful aesthetics of the physical spaces, which contrast heavily with the horridness, despair & sorrows experienced by the characters. A seemingly dream-like fairytale is anything but that.
A Repressed Childhood
Nalan’s upbringing by Feride is unconscionably and inexcusably strict. She physically abuses, manipulates, chastises Nalan over the slightest mistakes or any act that could tarnish Feride’s family name or honor. Something related to the past traumatizes Feride. Every time she hears the word media, she starts trembling and murmurs something about gazette, disgrace, and shame. What is it that terrifies Feride so much? What is the darkness that engulfs her soul & clouds her mind? The resulting cruel grip she has on Nalan as a result of these insecurities is astonishing.
Feride lives a caged life; she does not go outside, nor does she mingle with people. Yet, she is perceptive, aware of grim realities while a part of her longs to love and be loved. In a significant scene in episode 2 of season 1 between Nalan & Feride, Feride almost prophesizes that if Nalan ever turned distant and moved away from Feride, then Nalan will see the real face of this ugly world.
Since childhood, Feride forces Nalan to wear a corset to protect her chastity. One day, during trials in school, Nalan’s friend requests her to take part in the games. After an initial refusal, she agrees and asks her friend to help remove the corset. The friend looks astonished but complies. The moment she participates in the trials, Feride, standing outside the school, catches her without the corset. She rushes to the school, drags Nalan to the automobile in front of her classmates and teachers, beats her up like a barbarian. She then changes her school.
From thereon in, the corset is tied so tight that Nalan cannot breathe or sit comfortably. The end of the knots is burnt to ensure no one else can remove the corset except Feride or Hafize (the domestic help). Nalan regularly develops rashes. She doesn’t drink sufficient water or eat enough food in public to avoid utilizing the restroom. One of the scenes that send a shiver down the spine is: Nalan coming back home & gulping water in one breath due to extreme thirst.
Nalan’s weight and food are immaculately measured. She is not allowed to gain weight. The scene where she is measured at 53.3 kg serves as a stark reminder about models who are forced to watch their weight meticulously as any slips can result in the loss of their livelihoods.
Nalan’s classically styled clothes are straight out of the 1920s and 1930s. She is not allowed to act or behave like a normal 20 something. Nalan is a girl who has never been allowed to live a life. She is prohibited from celebrating her birthdays in restaurants. The only permission she acquires is for work, albeit conditional. She is to be available on the mobile at any time, whenever Feride calls. Slight delays cause frenzy.
Rooted in the painful incident in her own past, Feride also represses Nalan’s sexuality throughout her teen and adult life , using it as a tool to deter Nalan from exploring her sexual desires. Feride believes everyone outside of her known sphere is like a vulture. They all indulge in dirty, immoral shameful acts. She is convinced that her choices are for Nalan’s own well-being, just to protect her from evil people. She isolates Nalan from others. Nalan’s father is a mere spectator; he is an enabler of Nalan’s torment. He realizes the cost of his apathy but, at the same time, he calms his guilty conscience by assuring himself that there is nothing much he can do as his hands are tied. For him, it is far easier to put the entire blame on Feride than take responsibility.
Nalan’s only friend Billur, a happy-go-lucky, naive girl, has no idea about the despair of Nalan’s private life. Nalan’s lack of awareness about her biological parents only worsens the grim scenario. Nalan endures all the abuse and torment believing Feride and Adil need her, as she is their only child. She deeply yearns for her mother’s love.
This traumatic home environment harms Nalan in unimaginable ways. Nalan feels ashamed of herself for having dreamt about Sedat on a couple of occasions. She is trapped between excitement and shame from a guy kissing her and touching her skin in her dreams. This is a girl who longs to be touched and yearns to be kissed. Her lips quiver, her hands tremble at the thought of being kissed. She fears repercussions if Feride hears of her thoughts or her dreams. She shares with one of her dreams with Billur. She shares a second with housekeeper Hafize, which Feride overhears and punishes Nalan severely.
It is no wonder that Nalan experiences anxiety, reluctance in real life to act on her desires, and feels extreme guilt related to her sexual desires. The consequences & impact of this repression are further highlighted in Season 2 of Camdaki Kiz. Her inability to feel or derive pleasure from her sexual encounters make her relationship with Sedat more difficult.
The first few episodes do an excellent job of establishing the reality of Nalan’s life and why it might lead to her psychological despair and isolation. We slowly segue into Nalan as an adult, working at Koroğlu, the hotel chain owned by her father’s boss. She happens to meet Sedat Koroglu at the coffee lounge one day, and they exchange pleasantries for a few seconds.
Sedat, the prince charming, lives at an old mansion with his parents, siblings, brother-in-law & domestic helpers. They are one of the wealthiest families in Turkey. But all is not hunky-dory in that old, weary mansion.
Sedat’s father, Rafet, is a stingy man. He grew up in extreme poverty and hence, he values money. This has strained his relationship with his family. Rafet is closest to his daughter Selen.
He has a right-hand man, Tako, who reports everything to him. Tako, an interesting character, keeps an eye on expenditures, the amount of food being consumed & personal conversations. On Rafet’s orders, olives are weighed every day before breakfast is served. Tako collecting tissues from trash bin looks a tad bit reminiscent of Han collecting garbage in Masumlar Apartmanı, another psychological drama on air, adapted from a book by Dr. Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu. Tako measuring cheese is an example of dark humor. It is brilliantly executed.
Rafet & Gülcihan Koroğlu’s relationship has taken a hit since the birth of Muzzo. Muzzo is a hunch-back and since his birth, Rafet has not forgiven Gülcihan for their son’s deformity. In addition, Rafet and Sedat do not get along well. Rafet has a strong dislike for his elder son because of his womanizing ways. Gülcihan is overly protective of Sedat. The way they relate to their sons is a point of deep conflict between husband and wife. The only connection that brings them together is their daughter Selen.
Thanks to their parents, Sedat and Muzzo have a very traumatic childhood for different reasons. Sedat was always punished for tiny mistakes. Rafet perceived Sedat’s sensitivity as a sign of femininity, and punished any perceived transgressions. Muzzo was restricted to books and not allowed to play outside by his mom Gülcihan, who was embarrassed by his physical condition.
Rafet’s excessive control and stinginess divide the mansion. Sedat, the heir apparent to the Koroğlu fortunes, grows into a masochist. He doesn’t listen to or meet eye-to-eye with his father. He is prone to self-harm and rebellion towards Rafet. Sedat buys the most luxurious cars and watches and hides the vehicles in an underground garage as an act of rebellion.
Muzzo is the brain of the family. He is the go-to man in any crisis situation. The Koroğlu clan respects Muzzo & his decisions. On any critical matter, he has the final say.
Sedat is in love with Cana. Rafet disapproves of his choice since Cana is married to someone else and has children. Rafet & Cana’s father were friends. Cana & Sedat have a passionate, masochist relationship, which plays out in their private love nest. Their predatory relationship is captured in this dialogue when Cana tells him, “only she can hurt him, or only she knows how to hurt him.” Cana manipulates him and has emotional power over him.
Cana dominates Sedat; she takes decisions on their behalf, has a set order, and doesn’t like a disturbance in her routine. She is rebellious but conforms to the order set by society. Her husband Alp is unaware of Cana-Sedat’s 7-year long relationship and her cheating on him. She gains immense gratification from seeing Sedat unable to resist her. She humiliates Sedat & he enjoys the authority Cana exerts on him. Their masochist relationship is hidden from the rest of the world.
She is the complete opposite of Nalan. Cana is a seductress; sexually liberated, knowingly uses her sexuality to her advantage. She is self-centered, openly deviant, deceitful, and manipulative. She is a planner and a plotter. Selen and Cana are frenemies. Cana, who is secretly jealous of Nalan & her beauty, tries to put her down at every opportunity.
Rafet pushes for Sedat’s marriage to save him from Cana. He chooses Yasemin, whom Gülcihan & Selen dislike immensely. They feel she is not a perfect fit for their family. Selen is tasked with finding a girl suitable for their family.
One day at the restroom in their hotel, Selen overhears Billur & Nalan’s conversation. From their conversation, she finds out Nalan has never had a boyfriend or relationship. She realizes Nalan is naive and has been raised as a princess. Selen immediately tells her mother, Gülcihan Koroglu, about Nalan.
When they find out she is their employee Adil’s daughter, the mother-daughter duo takes the proposal to Rafet. This is their only opportunity to get rid of Yasemin. Rafet is more than pleased with the selection, but Sedat rejects the idea of marriage. He is vehemently opposed to getting married to someone else when he is in love with Cana. Cana, however, thinks otherwise. She believes his marriage with Nalan will take the eye off them & will grant them much-needed freedom. Sedat is reluctant and unwilling, but Cana wears him down with her persistence. He then enters this game willfully for his own gains.
This is exhibited in a fluffy scene at a coffee place in the company. The writers & director shed light on Nalan’s innocence & Sedat’s exacting & willful behavior, his mannerisms & his desires. What he wants, exactly how, and at what cost is perfectly highlighted here.
Hence, unbeknownst to Nalan, Sedat’s family and his lover deliberately choose Nalan as their sacrifice, each for their own sinister reasons and agendas.
Sedat & Nalan
Sedat embarks on his game to ensnare Nalan while he continues his dalliance with Cana. His sexual appetite represents a world Nalan does not understand, and she has no help from her mother, who is initially opposed to the marriage. Feride is not as trusting as Adil, who pushes for the wedding, thinking it will provide Nalan with her much-needed freedom.
As the marriage plans go through, and Feride discovers Sedat with Cana, instead of saving her child, she seems to take a twisted pleasure in sending Nalan to her new hell at the Koroğlu mansion.
The only person to understand and protect Nalan is Muzzo, and the two come to share a profound, inexplicable, unsaid bond. It is like they understood each other when their gazes met at the hospital after Sedat got into a willful accident. They feel each other’s emptiness, pain. They don’t often need words to converse. A glance is enough to convey their thoughts and moods. Muzzo is the voice of reason and the voice of the audience. Muzzo sees Nalan for who she is. He realizes Nalan has no airs about her; she is a very unsuspecting girl, unaware. She is all heart and more natural than anyone he knows around him.
Muzzo defends Nalan against Sedat whenever he catches Sedat resorting to using Nalan as a scapegoat in his elaborate and self-destructive love games. We are given hints of a prior incident where Sedat and Muzzo fell for the same girl, and Sedat harms her somehow, but we do not know the details. This is yet another dimension for Nalan’s suffering; being a pawn in a power game between the two brothers, even though Muzzo accepts that Nalan can never be his.
Despite the best of his intentions, Muzzo is an enabler of the Koroğlu cruelty towards Nalan. Muzzo knows of Sedat’s games on Nalan, like buying an expensive pendant for a jewelry store girl and blaming it on Nalan or how Sedat cheats on Nalan with Cana. Muzzo is also aware of why Sedat agreed to marry Nalan: get the company and a license to have his secret rendezvous with Cana. But he does nothing to really break the façade.
Muzzo, Selen, Gülçihan, and Rafet organize a family dinner (season one) before the wedding, where they introduce Cana as a family member and almost a sibling to Sedat. They host a charade to ensure Nalan or her family don’t suspect Cana & Sedat’s illicit, sadist, & masochist relationship.
Nalan’s entry into the Koroğlu mansion seems to have fanned the flames of the deep fissures in the family. Gülcihan is upset with Rafet for giving land and a car to Nalan as a gift before marriage. Being at the receiving end of Rafet’s stinginess, she is angry that her children, especially Sedat, have to hide whatever they buy while he shows his generosity to Nalan. Gülcihan begins to harbor slight negativity against Nalan as the story unfolds, yet she adores her at the same time. Amidst all these machinations in the family she is coming into in the hopes of love, Nalan has no idea what kind of torment awaits her inside that forsaken mansion.
The opening of Camdaki Kız bears a striking similarity between the story of Nalan, Cana, and Sedat and the story of Diana, Charles & Camilla of the British royalty. Throughout season one, it feels like Camdaki Kız is a throwback to the life of Princess Diana.
Feride, the vicious instigator of Nalan’s miseries, focuses more on her own honor than her child’s future or state of mind. She actively strips Nalan of her confidence and keeps her entombed in a state of lovelessness, be it in her own home or now in her marital home. After the wedding, Nalan rushes to Feride due to growing anxiety, fear, and lack of awareness in carnal knowledge; Feride refuses to let her in. She pushes her outside the door and lets her weep until a hand wraps a red shawl around her. This hand is of Hayri, the man who will change the course of this story in the days to come.
With her marriage, all of Nalan’s dreams are shattered. Her prince charming is not the prince charming she thought he was. Her every move is carefully introspected, speculated, and questioned. She is not in the fairy tale she had imagined. Instead, the darkest of nightmares is about to begin. Given a choice, which nightmare should she choose: Hell of Feride or Dungeon of Koroğlu?!
Camdaki Kız is Nalan’s story. It’s a story of an abused girl who got married into a family thinking she was the apple of their eye. But Nalan & Sedat’s union is not a love story, redemptive or otherwise. Sedat is not a knight in shining armor; he is conniving, manipulative, and a masochist. His appearance in Nalan’s life causes further mayhem & turmoil. His choice of Nalan is driven by the selfish need to continue with this life the way he wishes, with a public stamp of approval.
The psychological warfare that ensues among the characters due to some of these pivotal choices has been constructed with care. There’s an air of unpredictability in the characters’ reactions and behavior. Scenes are elaborately descriptive. Music is apt. Visuals of the Koroğlu mansion give a haunted vibe and an eerie feeling. The dialogues in the drama are of superior quality; they help in building the narrative.
Camdaki Kız’s first scene of episode one to the last sequence of season one, there’s devastation that laces every bit of it. For Nalan, it is betrayal upon betrayal, and she has not even begun to see it!
Betrayal doesn’t only break your heart but also darkens your soul. You’ll never forget the pain like a fog that forever lingers in the depths of your mind.
The choice of Burcu as Nalan comes across as rather deliberate. Burcu is chic, royal, blonde, and that faint resemblance with Princess Diana’s appearance is too apparent to ignore. Burcu Biricik sizzles in her role. She lives and breathes as Nalan. Her delicate demeanor, expressions, voice pitch are an insight into her understanding of the character! She brings layers of pathos in her interpretation of Nalan’s character.
Feyyaz as Sedat in a leading role is a good find! He is evocative as Sedat. He plays the conniving, cunning, negative, morally vacuous, abused, traumatized yet charming, regal prince of the story with élan.
A special mention to Nur Sürer for her terrifying, risky, passionate performance as Feride. She delivers a knock-out performance. She makes the audience resent, loathe and despise her. She forces the audience to at times appreciate her character for her foresight and wisdom.
The ensemble cast is in harmony. Full marks to the casting director for choosing superlative performers and the exquisite expressions of their craft are the hallmark of Camdaki Kız.
The script has minor flaws that question consistency, but these flaws are too insignificant to focus on the grim, gripping drama.
Camdaki Kız hits a raw nerve. It is laced with dark humor, subtle references & comparisons to Masumlar Apartmanı and the British Royals. It is one of the finest adaptations of a true story on Turkish TV. This is another winner by Dr. Gülseren Budayıcıoğlu!
Camdaki Kız stars Burcu Biricik, Ceyhan Cihangir, Devrim Yakut, Feri Baycu Güler, Feyyaz Şerifoğlu, Hamza Yazıcı, Hande Ataizi, Merve Polat, Nihal Menzil, Nur Sürer, Selma Ergeç, Şerif Erol, Tamer Levent, and Tuğrul Tülek.
It airs on KanalD on Thurdays and is one of the top ranking shows for the week, now in its second season. It recently won the Pantene Golden Butterfly award for Best Dizi. You can see a trailer of one of its earlier episodes here:
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Jovaria Naseem
Jovaria Naseem is a blogger and freelance writer. She writes for various online magazines. Mainly critiqued movie & series for various websites, penned articles on culture & politics, and has written sports articles, primarily cricket-based articles.
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