Burak Ozcivit
Burak Ozcivit plays Osman Bey in the Turkish TV series Kurulus: Osman. The popularity of the series has made Ozcivit famous in south and central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Image Credit: IMDb

Haidar Allah!, Ey Vallah, she shouted pounding the hammer on the anvil. The young lady was not part of the cast of Dirilis: Ertugrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul), but a wide-eyed fan of the Turkish television series. She was just one of the millions who stay glued to the Ottoman saga, and made the trip to the sets of the popular TV series.

Dirilis: Ertugrul, dubbed into six languages and shown in 72 countries, had a viewership of more than 650 million, according to unofficial reports. Its massive global fan base persuaded the producers to turn the sets in Riva, Beykoz district, in Istanbul into a tourist attraction. And the footfall has been impressive. So impressive that its creator Mehmet Bozdag penned a sequel: Kurulus: Osman (Establishment: Osman).

Watch: The sets of Dirilis: Ertugrul and Kurulus: Osman

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Visitors from around the world beat a path to the Bozdag Studios to relive the magic of the fictional series, rooted in Turkish history. They don the costumes of Alps and Hatuns, swing the swords and even ride a horse, while yelling popular expressions from the series. I was part of a group that toured the sets recently to watch the action from close quarters.

One misty morning, we weaved past the peak-hour traffic of Istanbul to reach a hilly terrain. A steep descent into a valley brought us to a clearing that revealed a village with rows of hut-like structures. An arched wooden gateway loomed ahead and a rivulet gurgled its way through the community, where a blacksmith forged swords. There were also castles, tents, inns and bazaars. This is where the Ottoman stories of two popular Turkish television series, Dirilis: Ertugrul and Kurulus: Osman, sprang to life.

Watch the live show on the sets

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A ceremonial reception by riders on horses greeted us before escorting to the sets of Dirilis: Ertugrul. After a look around, we wandered into the sets of Kurulus: Osman, where the aftermath of a battle was being filmed. Lead actor Burak Ozcivit took time off to greet us with warm handshakes and posed for selfies. “He’s so handsome,” squealed the youngest in our group.

Set in the 13th century, Dirilis: Ertugrul is loosely based on the life of Ertugrul Ghazi, the father of Osman I, who founded the Ottoman Empire. The series shows the struggles, triumphs and sacrifices of Ertugrul and his Kayi tribe to establish themselves, paving the way for the Ottoman Empire.

Kurulus: Osman
A still image from the Turkish TV series Kurulus: Osman. The series has been dubbed into several languages and is televised in many countries, making the actors household names. Image Credit: IMDb

Since its release in 2014, the series set about destroying Muslim stereotypes in the West, and the depiction of strong woman characters added to its appeal. It was soon acclaimed the Muslim Games of Thrones.

It was only natural that the success of Dirilis: Ertugrul spawned the sequel: Kurulus: Osman. The series, which started airing in 2019, focuses on the life of Osman Bey, showcasing his tussles against the Byzantium and the Mongols to gain control over the Ottoman dynasty.

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The characters and the action gave birth to a captivating live show. A flag march kicked off the action before horsemen rode around the circular arena in furious sprints that set the scene for the battles to follow. Fighters with spears and swords clashed with such vigour and venom that it looked frighteningly real. The actors and extras strung together a compelling narrative that transported us to the realms of Ertugrul and Osman.

It was fitting end to a film set experience. One that told the tales of Ottoman Empire.