Siyah Beyaz Ask (“SBA”: 2017 – 2018; Black and White Love) is a glorious and unlikely, mature and nuanced, sensual and passionate love story, presented through dialogue and plot mechanisms that encapsulate a rich emotional quotient in how the protagonists evolve to come together as one. Following one of the oldest formulas in the romance genre from the 18th century fairy tale Beauty and The Beast by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, which in turn is based on tales that originated 4,000 years ago, SBA highlights the transformative powers of love and how one can flow in and out of the light and the darkness of life, based on circumstances and choices.
The Beauty and the Beast
Asli is a strong-minded, beautiful, nurturing, self-made surgeon and healer, who has been brought up by her policeman brother Cem, after her father died prematurely from the pain of having a philandering wife, who took their older daughter and abandoned the family. She is the head of a new wing at a hospital, where Namik Emirhan is a board member with political ambitions.
Ferhat Aslan is Namik’s right hand man, who serves as the executioner of Namik’s toughest challenges in his illegal business activities. The eldest of three siblings, Ferhat sees Namik as his maternal Uncle and savior after Ferhat’s gem of a father, Barber Necdet, was shot and murdered in broad daylight in front of Ferhat when he was only 12.
With his father, Ferhat also lays his idyllic and happy childhood to rest. Afterwards, when Namik brings the killer in front of Ferhat and forces him to shoot the man in honor of a ‘blood revenge’, Ferhat enters a dark world where his eventual reign of terror and ruthlessness gains him an indomitable position within Namik’s organization. Ferhat’s mother Yeter is only too happy for Ferhat to become the man of the house and eagerly accepts Namik’s protection for the family. In exchange, Ferhat sells his soul and becomes a hitman for Namik, while he keeps his brother insulated from the cruelty of this world by financing Yigit’s professional pursuits as a prosecutor.
Unbeknownst to Ferhat, Namik is Ferhat’s biological father through his relationship with Yeter, who worked at a club. When she becomes pregnant, Namik chooses not to leave his wife for her, and marries her off to Barber Necdet, a poor but honorable man. Yeter has two children with Necdet, Yigit and Gulsum.
Necdet raises Ferhat as his beloved eldest son even though he is aware of his paternity. Significantly older than his siblings, Ferhat is his father’s shadow and absorbs all his pearls of wisdom imparted to groom Ferhat as a man of honor whose life choices will be guided by his conscience. With Necdet’s murder and Namik’s fait accompli that Ferhat’s only option for caring for his family is to be by Namik’s side, Ferhat becomes one with the living dead, whose fondest memories remain locked in the life he knew before Necdet is killed. Those memories preserve a time of his life that remains forever lost – when he was the natural protector for his younger siblings, when his siblings looked up to him with respect and when he was the heir apparent to, and the enforcer of, his father’s pure code of life.
In present day, Asli finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been brought to the Emirhan farm to operate on a traitor in Namik’s organization, that Ferhat had shot earlier that day. Forced to comply, Asli does her best for the patient, thinking she is helping to save Ferhat’s father. Ferhat is intrigued by Asli and her compassionate, expressive, independent ways, and treats her without cruelty. She is held on the farm overnight and during an escape attempt the day after, she witnesses Namik shoot the traitor to death. As she runs away with Ferhat hot on her heels, she begs for her life and tells him that even if he kills her, her brother Cem will hunt him down. Aware that his brother Yigit and Cem have paired up to put Namik and Ferhat behind bars, Ferhat forces Asli to marry him as a negotiating card against the law when the time comes. He convinces her that this is the only way she can keep her brother from being killed by Ferhat’s cronies.
From here starts the tumultuous relationship of Asli and Ferhat, two people who could apparently not be more different from one another. Ferhat is curt, abrupt, rigid and emotionally stunted; Asli is kind, compassionate, tolerant and emotionally intelligent. While Ferhat’s severe all-black wardrobe, sharp movements and vengeful behavior mask the innate kindness in his soul; Asli’s outward bravado, soft pastel wardrobe and feisty attitude mask a loving heart that can easily see the prince within the beast.
Asli understands that, in his own way, Ferhat is a man of honor, whose ethos in his crime world is driven by a need to protect his family. He does not take lives for the pleasure of it, does not hurt women and children. He lashes out because of his own deep wounds but he is fiercely protective of his siblings. Even when Yigit puts his professional might into incarcerating Ferhat and Namik, Ferhat does everything to safeguard Yigit from Namik’s devious ways. And thus, we come to learn that, the feared Beast is far more than meets the eye.
“I let her go… because I love her”, says the Beast
As Asli discovers the pieces of Ferhat’s tragic past, sees how he fights for justice as he understands it and watches him protect her again and again at the risk of his own life, she begins to love the man who hides under his beastly mask. The kindness in his gestures are hidden under a gruff exterior and she begins to understand why he elicits the kind of loyalty he does. He is a natural leader willing to give more of himself for the safety of his loved ones, and having discovered the secret behind the Namik/ Ferhat relationship early in their relationship, she begins to understand the burden of guilt Ferhat carries for defacing the memory of the angelic Necdet, the only man he considers his father. She takes his hand and stands next to him, resolute against him taking decisions that keep him embedded in a life of crime. She fights to stay next to him and keep him from falling, while he fights to keep her out of the way so that she is not destroyed by his ugliness. He lets her go time and again so as not to kill her with his love, even though he recognizes that Asli is his only ray of hope in this life.
Ferhat protects Asli, putting himself in the line of fire; Gurgen’s music is out of this world
They ride the ebbs and flows of their relationship, faced with danger, intrigue and loss that shake their foundation again and again. The deep passion they feel for each other, the comfort they find in each other’s arms, his fight with himself to keep her at a distance, their desire to build a life together against all odds, are all so masterfully portrayed in this production, that one has no trouble cruising along the filler plots and side bars just to have the opportunity to come back and focus on the lead pair.
The interactions between Ferhat and Asli are filled with mature, often philosophical dialogue, delivered to perfection by both Ibrahim Celikkol as Ferhat and Birce Akalay as Asli. Their expressions, body language and demeanor create enduring characters that the audience grows to love in equal measures. A stoic, hardened man who is learning the language of love, paired with an intelligent woman of strength who stands ready to teach him how to love. A clash of equals and complementary characteristics make their passion revered and believable.
The Light and The Darkness
Before her life with Ferhat began, Asli was in a relationship with Sinan, a suave, smooth talking colleague from the hospital. While she still dreams of the time that she will come free of Ferhat and build her life with Sinan, Ferhat surreptitiously exposes Sinan’s duplicity, who in reality was a married man with a child. This is one of many such anecdotal plot devices used throughout the series where one is faced with philosophical questions around the murky differences between the perceived good and evil, black and white, right and wrong, and ways one can slide from one side to the other. Is a choice ever absolute? Is Ferhat beyond redemption? Is it possible for light to break through the wounds and erase the darkness?
The interplay between the light and the darkness is not only portrayed through the plot and the character’s life choices, but also through their wardrobe choices, makeup and set design. At one point, when Asli descends into a moment of darkness, she is wearing all black clothing like Ferhat, as though they are finally on the same playing field. Her makeup goes from soft to darker colors based on the emotions she portrays, and his hair goes from sharp contours to softer ones based on the emotional range his character needs to portray. The promo for the show, with its majestic soundtrack from the veritable Yildiray Gurgen, also makes subtle references to the ways one side can bleed into the other, but leaves one with the question of whether one has the courage to change for the better; to let go of the known and embrace the new.
“Tale as old as time, tune as old as song, bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong” – Mrs. Potts, Beauty and The Beast
The veneration for this story gives credence to a theory I had posted a while ago, about why these formulaic characters of a fractured man healed by a woman of strength are so popular. I had quoted, “A rudimentary explanation is that since the primary audience for the stories are women, women like to see a strong woman of substance finally be the healer for the broken man, piecing him back together into a more fulfilling and human existence. These themes also allow mechanisms to show a more vulnerable, soulful side of a man, something that is often repressed in the alpha male stereotype society attempts to shape in real life. Both these rather typical male/ female characterizations are designed to appeal to the compassionate heart rooting for the transformative power of love.” And, in the same post, I had presented the Beauty and the Beast as my top example for this quintessential tragic hero.
Needless to say, when the concept of the Beauty and the Beast is introduced as a theme in SBA in episode 9, I knew then that I had to write this review. I have watched very few shows where I felt the love story between two mature adults is told with as much depth as it is in SBA. There may be shortcomings in the story as perceived by some since the production had faced myriad issues while on air, but watching it after the fact confirms for me that true love does not see with the eyes but is felt with the heart. I can say that to be true both for the story told by the characters, and the feeling I am left with about their fairy tale.
Siyah Beyaz Ask (PRICE OF PASSION) – Official Trailer Watch on YouTube https://youtu.be/xyKHnfu_pS8
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mh. rating: 9/10
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