Coming up: A Pak-Turk collaboration on the life of Salahuddin Ayyubi

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By Maliha Rehman

The Muslim world is going through troubling times. There is a general feeling of discontent, a lack of unity and disparate belief systems, propelled by the fear and exhaustion that stems from constantly battling with a deluge of derogatory headlines. ‘Islamic terrorism’ is discussed at length in shows on international channels and popular media doesn’t hesitate to portray the Muslim community as regressive, uncouth and violent. Fuelled by this narrative, minority Muslim communities occasionally end up enduring racism and communal violence.

These are unpredictable, scary, difficult times.

And while it can only be hoped that the global misrepresentation of Muslims get changed over time, the community can at least work in positive directions by remembering their own stories and heroes. This is possibly the main reason why the Turkish series Dirilis: Ertugrul was an international success. Aside from the fact that it was a grandiose, very well-produced project, it was also a series that celebrated Islamic values and heroism.

Now, in a similar vein, plans are underway to spiral back into Islamic history to the 12th century, for the retelling of the story of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi, often lauded as the savior of Islam. The Muslim sultan is remembered for having built a colossal empire, stretching out across several nations and dealing a severe blow to the Christian Crusades by capturing Jerusalem. He is also infamous for his commitment to the cause of jihad, strengthening the power of Islam. For people familiar with Islamic history, the Sultan’s valor and military genius is inspirational. His a story worth remembering and retelling.

Salahuddin Ayyubi is a hero for Muslims around the world. In the current political and cultural scenario, it is very important to tell his story.” – Adnan Siddiqui

A joint Pak-Turk collaboration hopes to do this in a grand way, officially signing a contract in a meeting in Belgrade, for the making of the series ‘Selahuddin Eyyubi’. Helming the series will be actors Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed as well as Pakistani doctors Kashif Ansari and Junaid Ali Shah who have chosen to place their faith – and investment – into the project. Emre Konuk from Turkey, founder of Akli Films and producer and scriptwriter of popular Turkish series The Great Seljuks: Guardians of Justice, is also on board. The script will be researched and written by Ahmet Faruk Bakacak, Media Communications Director at Akli Films.

More than a year ago, during the coronavirus’ first wave, actor Humayun Saeed had casually mentioned that he wanted to work on a series on the life of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi. At that time, it had been conjectured that Pakistan did not have the budget to create such a grand production, at par with the international benchmarks set by Ertugrul Ghazi, which it was bound to get compared to. Now, with investors on board and well-known Turkish professionals bringing in their expertise, it seems that the story of the Ayyubid Dynasty’s golden era actually could be retold on TV.

However, more recently, Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed had announced the making of another potential extravaganza, a collaboration with Turkey’s Tekdin Films, for the filming of a mega-series called Turki Lala.

What has become of Turki Lala now that the focus is on Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi?

“Turki Lala is also a work in progress,” says Adnan Siddiqui, “but that is an even bigger project which will require even more time and effort. Also, Turki Lala’s story is unique particularly to Turkey and Pakistan. Salahuddin Ayyubi is a hero for Muslims around the world. In the current political and cultural scenario, it is very important to tell his story.”

Will some of the series be shot in Pakistan and will the series feature Pakistani actors?

According to Adnan Siddiqui, the contract dictates that at least 25% of the cast will be from Pakistan and many of them will be cast in leading roles. “A major chunk of the series’ first season will be shot in Turkey. We may shoot in Pakistan but a number of historic Islamic series have been created in Turkey and they have grand sets that we can use and locations where we can shoot easily.”

“Also, when we, as producers, get the rights to shoot in a location for some time or create a set, that space can also be used by other Pakistani producers.”

In the contract-signing ceremony, a theme song was heard in the backdrop and Adnan reveals that the music has been composed by Pakistan’s Bilal Maqsood. “They have really liked the music and it may eventually become the title opening track for the series,” he says.

This series, as well as the initial plans for Turki Lala, indicate how there are many overseas Pakistanis who want to extend their support to the many industries that can help the country grow. Both Dr Kashif Ansari and Dr Junaid Ali Shah live overseas but are investing into the making of a series that is likely to be expensive. Given the right projects, the right teams and well-constructed plans, the support of overseas Pakistanis can help the local entertainment industry to bring out quality productions at par with global standards.

The script-writing process by Ahmet Faruk has begun and plans are to begin shooting ‘Selahuddin Eyyubi’ within six months’ time.

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Coming up: A Pak-Turk collaboration on the life of Salahuddin Ayyubi