Yeni Hayat (“New Life”), is the new dizi on Kanal D for the Thursday night line up on Turkish tv. Although up against some pretty stiff competition from two returning, successful series on other stations, hopefully, the all important Turkish viewers, regarding ratings, will show the same interest as international viewers have. The concept of the plot has proven fascinating from the first, but now after three episodes, the plot has taken on a most extraordinary dynamic of mystery, suspense, corruption, treachery, duplicity and jealousy. Moreover, who can resist the handsome and talented actor, Serkan Cayoglou in the role of Adem Sahin or gorgeous Melisa Asli Pamuk as Yasemin Karatan. Both actors have proven their respective abilities in excellent dramatic roles; she in Kara Sevda and Carpisma; he, in, Halka. They are, without a doubt, perfectly cast for the characters they portray.
Elements of the dizi’s concept remind the viewer of The Bodyguard, a UK series, where a government Minister’s bodyguard is an ex special forces soldier. Similarly, a subject of the plot is loosely reminiscent of a 1991 film, Sleeping With The Enemy, starring Julia Roberts and Patrick Bergin, where Roberts’ character, married to a controlling, obsessive compulsive, and misogynistic man, fakes her death in order to save herself.
AN EX SPECIAL FORCES SOLDIER, A BEAUTIFUL SOCIALITE
The initial episode introduces us to Yasemin Karatan, a young woman from humble beginnings who has been courted by Timur Karatan (Tayanc Ayaydin), a respected entrepreneur of substantial wealth. Yasemin is Timur’s second wife. His first wife, with whom he has a college age daughter, has disappeared many years before following death threats and her kidnapping. Although her body has never been recovered, she is presumed dead.
Adem Sahin is an ex special forces soldier. He is married to Nevin (Nilperi Sahinkaya) and they have a young daughter named Ece (Nisa Sofiya Aksongur). Recently discharged from the army, following an injury received whilst saving his commander’s life, Captain Adem Sahin is finding the adjustment to civilian life challenging. Overqualified, he is rejected by prospective employers. He is approached by his old army buddy, Bekir Tosun (Aziz Caner Inan), head of security for Timur Karatan, to interview for the position of bodyguard for Yasemin Karatan.
As Yasemin has been receiving death threats and a ten million dollar ransom has been placed on her head, Timur, not wanting to relive the events surrounding his first wife’s disappearance, wants a bodyguard for Yasemin. Timur is impressed by Adem’s medals for bravery, his abilities, and training ; he is also drawn to the testimonials of his honor and fidelity. Even though he wants Yasemin guarded, he is so jealous of her that he needs to feel one thousand percent secure that her bodyguard will be above reproach.Throughout the three episodes, the viewer is the only one privy to the knowledge that Timur is a misogynist.
After pressure from Nevin, Adem reluctantly accepts the job. Adem’s brief is not only to protect Yasemin but also to uncover who is behind these threats. As Adem begins guarding Yasemin, he runs into a wall of non – compliance from her.
What he doesn’t know is that she wants him fired because his expertise will prove an obstacle to her secret plan to get away from Timur. No one knows that she herself has hired the criminals to help her execute the hoax: send threats, seek a ransom, supply her with a forged passport, fake her kidnapping and her death. The criminals, headed by a man who goes by Kunduzi (Nebil Sayin), knows instinctively that Adem will be impossible to dupe.
When Yasemin plans a fake purse snatching to discredit Adem with Timur, Adem thwarts it and demonstrates that he knows she has orchestrated it. When she goes to give the final payment to Kunduzi, Adem follows her and almost catches her with him. Fearing exposure by Adem, Kunduzi advises her to divert Adem’s focus by seducing him. Adem’s suspicions intensify when his daughter, Ece, is used as a threat by Kunduzi to get him to quit. At this point, Adem contacts his mentor, Rasim, a retired police inspector, to help him get background information on Yasemin and on the criminals.
As the third episode opens, Adem must deal with Yasemin’s forward behaviour. The awkward and startling kiss by Yasemin only serves to perplex Adem even more and put him on full alert as to Yasemin’s motives for making such advances. He knows for sure that she is trying to distract him from some secret. He tells her that he cannot protect her if she does not confide in him. Little do they both know that her kiss has been recorded by someone. The second time she tries to approach him, he stops her cold in her tracks and tells her that she is playing games. As if Yasemin’s games are not enough, Adem is called upon to deal with Timur’s spoiled daughter, Gokce’s, immature attention seeking flirtations.
A Sunday afternoon gathering in Timur’s garden raises Adem’s antenae even more. On the insistence of Timur’s partner, Abdullah, Timur invites the Sahin family to their barbeque. Abdullah, sensing Adem as a potential threat to their covert activities, wants to personally meet and appraise Adem. Abdullah lets Adem know how much knowledge he has about Adem’s special forces background and he makes insidious threats that puzzle Adem. By the end of episode three, Adem decides that he has had enough of the games rich, spoiled people play. He makes a decision not to continue working for Timur Karatan.
However, Adem never gets a chance to discuss his decision with Timur. At Yasemin’s urging, Timur accepts that the two of them spend a day together without any bodyguards at all. As they drive in the countryside, their car is attacked and Yasemin is kidnapped. Although it appears that Yasemin has been abducted by the gang she has hired, a cell phone conversation from Kunduzi to an unknown person indicates otherwise. Yasemin’s kidnapping is not what it appears to be.
While the kidnapping is in progress, Adem is at a meeting with Rasim. Adem is introduced to a former infantry officer, Ayhan, who informs Adem about Timur’s involvement in the sale of weapons used in terrorist activities which have caused the death of three officers and his own paraplegia. He wants to enlist Adem’s help to bring Timur and the terrorist organization to justice. Adem accepts and in the same breath responds to a call from Timur who informs him that Yasemin has been kidnapped. Adem will have to work with Timur to save Yasemin and simultaneously gather intelligence against him.
APPEARANCE VERSUS REALITY
Yeni Hayat is much more than an action story about connections between wealthy business men and nefarious activity. It is about how the truth can be very different from perception. How, often, what appears has little to do with reality and how misogyny and other such pathologies are easily veiled by wealth, social position and education.
Timur Karatan is a man who appears the epitome of good breeding, civility ; a model husband, good father, and respected business man. His daughter Gokce ( Ipek Filiz Yazici ) can attest to his failures as a father, but she is unaware that her father is also a misogynist. His cousin, Berna, believes, like everyone, that Yasemin lives the perfect life. Even his live-in house servants of many years have no clue what goes on behind closed doors. Timur’s attention to Yasemin in the public domain is faultless, but the slightest disagreement can trigger private abuse. Gratefully, the director has taken care not to expose the audience to the actual abuse. In some ways, this is more effective than overt images of violence. More significantly, this subtle but effective treatment of the subject, reinforces the theme of appearance and reality.
Things are not what they appear in Adem and Nevin’s lives either. On the surface, they appear to have a perfect marriage. Adem loves his wife and considers her an angel, a woman with a pure heart and he feels lucky to have her. He clearly displays sensitivity towards her feelings. Despite knowing how Adem cherishes her, Nevin is always on edge and nervous that Adem will discover some secret we sense she is hiding from him. She aims to present a meek and compliant demeanor. Although she has pressured Adem to take this job and is enjoying what his high salary can provide, when she meets Yasemin, she becomes instantly jealous. Although there is no reason for her underlying jealousy, her own insecurities, probably stemming from what she is hiding from Adem, make her ask the staff questions about Yasemin.
Although the concept of the bodyguard is not something new to television or film, we are not viewing the same hackneyed formula. The writer (Elif Usman) and director (Basak Soysal, Cem Ozudur ) have so far succeeded in creating protagonists who have substance but are subtle creations and not caricatures of similar plot devices.
Adem is steadfast in his duty to country and home and is not lured into all sorts of traps being set. He is not, for example, a person like his friend, Bekir. Yasemin, too, is not the willing trophy wife. She has a heart and cares about the feelings of others. Not only do we learn this from the way she interacts with the staff and tries to get along with Gokce, but we observe how she admonishes Berna for gossiping about and belittling Nevin. Yasemin and Adem have decorum and reserve about them and the viewer has yet to see any wrong action on their part. Even Yasemin’s attempts to distract Adem are embarrassing and artificial for her.
A NEW LIFE
How the nuances suggested by the title will be achieved will be interesting to behold. At the moment, Yasemin’s prospects for a new life are not looking good. Adem’s quest to bring Timur and his associates to justice is certain to bring him into dangerous conflict but it will satisfy Adem’s need to serve his country and feel that his civilian life has purpose. His pursuit to protect Yasemin is bound to bring him closer to her and place his marriage and his life in a precarious situation. As the plot moves quickly forward, drawing the viewer into the heart of the action, life changing secrets will be exposed and probably with dire consequences.
Based on the viewing of Yeni Hayat’s first three episodes and the previews for episode four, this series promises a remarkable dynamic.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Joan Hiver
Author: Joan Hiver is a retired English Literature Professor who has taught English Literature at both secondary school and university levels. For many years Joan also served on the Board of Directors of an International Private School. At the moment, she is trying her hand on writing a children’s book. A native of Canada , Joan moved to the United States after her marriage. She is the mother of three children. Joan discovered the Turkish dizi when she and her family lived in Europe. Besides being a die-hard fan of Turkish dizis since 2006, she enjoys sewing, needlepoint, gardening, cooking and detective fiction of any kind.
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