‘Living by Türkan Şoray rules always gave me serenity and happiness’
So that was my first meeting with Şoray. And now many years have passed since then, and here we are again on another snowy evening, about to meet again.
But there have been other snowy occasions to meet with Türkân Hanım in the past -- for example, there was the time we spoke for hours about the film “Seni Kalbime Gömdüm,” directed by Altan Günbay. On that occasion, it was also snowing as I went to meet her, and when we went outside, Hisarüstü was covered in white.
Or the time that Şermin Terzi and I were to write an interview for the Hürriyet newspaper. We planned to meet at the bar of the Bebek Hotel. It was a Saturday, and towards noon, it started to snow. Our photographs are taken from the terrace of the bar, with the snow falling on our backs, as well as onto the water behind us.
I also recall one New Year’s Eve. Which year was that? Snow rarely falls here on New Year’s Eve, but on that night there was snowfall and I was a guest at Türkân Hanım’s home. We wound up entering the new year surrounded by the light of snow.
And now on this latest of those snowy evenings, we begin the interview -- brightened up here and there with colorful questions from Abdullah -- with some words from a great master of Turkish cinema, Akad. And Türkân Hanım responds with her ever-present unassuming nature, her thoughtfulness and a sense of limitless loyalty.
Here is what Lütfü Akad said about you: “It was with great joy, after beginning filming ‘Vesikalı Yârim,’ that I realized that after so many years I was once again working with a real actor, someone with whom I could speak about the role...”
Well, that’s a wonderful thing you’ve said. It is a reward for a lifetime of work in cinema to hear those words, an incredible thing. It is a real prize to hear such a wonderful director speak those words. I also have an incredible desire to work with him. And, as you may know, I was the one who started negotiations with him. I actually made the offer. I guess it was when I watched one of Lütfi Bey’s films, “Irmak,” that I became very impressed with him. And I felt that then, during that age of melodrama, he was a very important figure in cinema. My inner senses are very strong, and of course at that time I was not in the same position I am now when it came to the world of cinema. I hadn’t yet taken on so many responsibilities. Despite that, though, I had started to slowly develop the instinctive desire to do better and different things. I felt I could do this with Lütfi Akad, and it was the right choice.
You films are still so widely watched, though they largely belong to the past. Of course, it is a well-known fact that Yeşilçam [Turkish Hollywood] films are still very much watched. Do you have any worries when it comes to the new generations recognizing you?
Well, even children of nine or 10 years of age know me incredibly well. I go to visit universities and the young people there know me, too, and we embrace. They have memorized my films. That is a wonderful thing. But, of course, in recent years I have not made films, so they just know those melodramas from television. As you said, those things have influence even today.
Why does Türkan Şoray wish to defend Turkish cinema?
Not “defend,” because actually, my life is like a cinema show. All of those films are a part of my life. You can see my various ages through the cinema. I was such-and-such an age in such-and-such a film. It’s really kind of interesting. So, just as you’d rather praise that which is closest to you, instead of defend it, that’s what I’m doing.
I wonder whether we could put it like this: “Yeşilçam was like a specific struggle of its own, and today, looking back on it, we can find things to praise about it, even as we criticize its negative aspects. We can at least see the works from that period as memories.” Even today, the same people who had already watched all those films in the past can approach them more warmly and softly today. This is sort of a victory, is it not?
True. The value of Yeşilçam is understood better today than ever. For some people, though -- I cannot really speak for general viewers. My wonderful fans. They are always something different.
Of course, without those fans, cinema would have never stayed on its feet.
I have already said this before: It was really Turkish audiences and fans that created Yeşilçam and Turkish cinema as a whole, with their incredible love and devotion, and their ability to fill those cinema salons.
You have also noted in the past that much of the success and even existence of Turkish cinema is due to those who work behind the scenes in the sector...
Yes ... they are the invisible heroes. People know me, but what could I have really done alone? This wasn’t just something I could do with my dark brows and my dark eyes. It was through the support of the cameramen, the lighting technicians, the directors and the scriptwriters that we were able to show ourselves in cinema. They supported me, and I became famous. That is my position this week. Really, that’s how it is. As you know, this is a collective sort of work, work that takes contributions from many. They all put their hearts into it. The scriptwriter wanted to write the best material ever. The director wanted to do his best work. And you know our set creators ... they put their heart into it. They protected us. They created sets out of nothing. I want people to know all this.
Actually, people know very little about everything that goes on behind the scenes, how much work goes into creating just a 45-second scene. Now, when you look back at your 40 years of cinema experience, do you say to yourself “I’m glad I lived that all out,” or do you think that maybe you could have had a different life?
Well, if I returned to life a thousand times more, I would still want to be Türkan Şoray, no matter how many difficulties a life working in cinema presents. I would want it all. Thanks to Allah that I was seen as fit for such things.
Outside of your life as an actor, it seems as though you have always remained slightly removed from the rest of life. How much of your life has gone as your heart desired? In other words, cinema has been your life, but was it also your personal life? Did you want it to be that way?
Well, that was my choice. Just as I began to get to know my own life and self, I began to be famous and loved by fans. The greatest asset to my life began to be being loved by my audience. I just felt so close to my fans, to the people of the nation, to the society in which I lived. I suppose my personal character was perfect for this. The values of society, its codes and ethics were all very important to me. And I suppose living like that, and the way I was brought up, and just who I am, made this all very natural for me. So I really entered into all this on my own.
When we look at you, we see someone who has always kept her distance, who has been very measured by her actions; people will, of course, always watch how they act, but it seems you have really taken this to a serious extreme...
This is the kind of life that has given me happiness, though. It has brought me the love and the respect of society. It has given me happiness and serenity.
Türkan Hanım and I went somewhere, and there were thousands of people trying to cross from one side of the street to the other at the same time. I was trying to help Türkan Hanım. I asked her “Aren’t you afraid of these crowds?” She replied, “To the contrary, I am not afraid, but I can feel I’m alive.”
I do not like bodyguards or that sort of thing at all. Why are we afraid of people? People love me; why would someone try and hurt me? Of course I am going to get hugged and kissed by people. This is a wonderful thing, and best to experience it as much as possible. And the response to all this love is to simply exist among people. I want to experience this feeling until the day I die.
Every chance you get, you say that you are deeply indebted to Turkish cinema. Do you ever think that perhaps Turkish cinema is also indebted to you? Did you start this program with the idea in mind that it would be a way of paying off this sense of indebtedness that you hold?
Cinema has paid off any debts it has to me already, both financially and spiritually. What else could I possibly want? I am indebted to cinema for all the wonderful things I have lived and experienced. Cinema has mostly satisfied me deeply on an emotional and spiritual level. I cannot expect anything more from cinema.
There is something else I sense as a result of feeling so close to you. I sense that you, Türkan Şoray, have some idea that you are indebted to the people of this nation. In recent years, this particular sensitivity on your part seems to have increased. You show support to anyone from your past who gave you even the slightest bit of help, and in particular, we see this in the support you show other members of the art world.
Well, that’s just how it should be. Sometimes, under the normal conditions of life, you aren’t able to stop and show what you really feel for people, but then there comes a time when a show is done to remember someone, and so you do your best to support it. It is important not to forget the things you have experienced in the past.
Does this stem from your desire to do things that you weren’t able to do in the past?
Perhaps. For example, I lost my mother, and sometimes I say, “If only she had lived, the things I would have done for her!” which is why you need to show love and respect for people while they are still alive. And also why you need to show respect for people who have contributed to your career. Sometimes, when you are in the midst of your relationships with others, you don’t have time to acknowledge or even realize how much they are helping you. Actually though, it shouldn’t be like that. You must always show love and respect at that moment in time. I do wish I had done many things before, but what can I do, I wasn’t able to then. So I do the things now that I wasn’t able to do in the past.
You took a break from directing after “Yılanı Öldürseler.” Why did you do this despite all the positive responses you received? You directed four films. Why did you take a break after this?
I did my films during the time when cinema was doing better business. There were certain problems that led to me taking a break. After all, cinema is not only an art arena but also a trade sector. It was a great risk to go forward making films during the period when films were not doing any business. Cinema entered into a difficult period, and it really lasted for a while. Anyway, so with my films not making money, I was forced to take a break for a period of time. I wanted to wait and see what would happen with the cinema sector in Turkey.
You had a script. What happened to it?
I am working on it. Eren will film it. He has a perspective like mine; he will film it for me.
When you first began, did anyone help you?
No, I never was that fortunate.
What about from the director’s perspective?
No! In those years, Turkey was definitely a more male-dominated society. And I was a young girl. My mother was by my side. I had left school, and those were years of such economic difficulty. No one would hold your hand in those days. Those were such difficult years. There weren’t as many magazines as today, and when you appeared on a cover, you sure knew you had become famous!
Abdullah Kılıç: Up until today, it was always reporters asking you questions, but now here you find yourself asking your colleagues questions. What sort of feeling does this give you?
Well, my goal is to have a conversation by asking those questions. By opening a path of conversation through those questions. To remind them all over again about the wonderful things they have experienced during their careers.
Do you do special work to prepare for the program?
Well, since I talk about the history of cinema, I do read some books on this subject. I don’t want to give out any incorrect information, after all.
You made some serious plans from the very beginning concerning all of this.
I have studied the films I have made up until now. My roles have changed, and I have changed. I have divided the years up into different sections to calculate these changes. And now, I will explain all of this.
I have seen this. Some very serious work in notebooks…
Yes, identifying things such as which events took place in which years or how society underwent major changes in a certain year. How the cinema and my own acting were affected. How my character was affected.
S.İ.: There is a certain script I am thinking of writing, and though I don’t really enjoy writing scripts. I want to write it for Türkan Hanım.
A.K: Would you act a part in a script written by Selim Bey?
A.K: Are you done writing this script?
S.İ: Well, I have been explaining this unfinished script to Türkan Hanım.
Selim Bey has a story that I really liked that had to do with a man doing his military service. It all takes place in one day. A woman who is a writer goes to visit her son, who is a soldier. It is just a one-day visit, but it is a very emotional story. We were afraid at the time to film this because of monetary issues, but perhaps now this story could be filmed.
In any case, this was very relaxing, seeing you all again. I am always so relaxed having the chance to speak to you. Thank you.