Turkish screenwriter tells Ottoman history through one woman's life
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency | 9/14/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Kösem Sultan, one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history, is now the subject of a feature film, 'Mahpeyker.' Screenwriter Avni Özgürel says past depictions of Kösem Sultan as a despot were false, adding that his film shows her in a better light. Most importantly, he says, 'Mahpeyker' recounts the empire's history through women, rather than men
The life of Kösem Sultan, one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history, is set for cinemas in a feature film, “Mahpeyker,” that revolutionizes portrayals of imperial history, according to the movie’s screenwriter.
The Ottoman Empire has always been told through men but it was now time to tell its story through a woman, said screenwriter Avni Özgürel.
“There were [powerful women] like Hürrem, Safiye and Turhan, but Kösem was the most powerful one,” said Özgürel, adding that she ruled the country until her son, Murat IV (r. 1623-1640), could properly assume the throne.
“The other [women] were effective in the administration of the empire because of their husbands but she directly governed the country since her son was the sultan and he was a child,” he said.
“Kösem governed the empire successfully for 10 years. She used to talk to foreign ambassadors and learned about the incidents in the world. She was the most powerful person in the Ottoman Empire. It was not easy for Murat IV to take control when he grew older,” he said.
[HH] Ottoman history compelling
Özgürel said the film would be premiered on Oct. 13 at Istanbul’s Maslak TİM Center before going into wider release two days later.
“I want people to be interested in Ottoman history,” Özgürel said, adding that he wanted to remove the perception that only comedy films could be profitable.
“Our history is as dramatic as Western history. It should be seen in the cinema sector,” he said.
“Shooting started in October 2009 and ended in May 2010. We established a harem on an area of 1,700 square meters in Kurtköy because we did not have the chance to shoot it at Topkapı Palace. A total of 400 people worked on the film, 200 people for figuration and 50 people for technical aspects and arts. Some 1,500 costumes were used and the film cost 4 million Turkish Liras,” he said, adding that the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency supported the film.
A young Turkish actress, Damla Sönmez, portrays the young Kösem in the film, while venerable actress Selda Alkor plays an older Kösem, he said.
One of the film’s highlights is also “Muhabbet Kuşları” (Parakeets), a song by legendary singer Sezen Aksu, Özgürel said.
Özgürel said Kösem Sultan had been brought to Istanbul as a slave and adopted by a woman. Later, Ahmet I, a previous sultan and father of Murad IV, saw her by chance when she came to the palace with her mother and fell in love with her.
After that, they were officially married, which was unusual for the time, Özgürel said. Tragically, however, Kösem Sultan was widowed at 28, he said, adding that she was forced to begin fighting to keep her royalty and power she acquired thanks to her husband.
[HH] Kösem Sultan misunderstood in past
“In films made about her so far, Kösem Sultan was shown as a bad and despotic woman, who acted against her son and prevented her son’s power. She was an intriguer in the palace, this is completely true. But her anger and ambition was inside the palace only,” he said.
“For example, she sent people to Istanbul to find orphan girls, provided for their education and got them married. She paid the debts of Muslims or non-Muslims, who were kept in dungeons because of their debts and had them released. All of Istanbul’s hungry people ate in soup kitchens that she opened. She was known as the ‘hand of deus ex machina’ among people. When she was killed, the people of Istanbul mourned for 40 days. She used to say, ‘I show my anger to the palace, my milk to the public,” Özgürel said.
“Kösem Sultan’s legendary beauty was the reason the sultan fell in love with an ordinary woman like her. Because of her beauty, she was named ‘Mahpeyker,’ which means moon-like face,” he said.
When Kösem Sultan came to the palace, Ahmet I’s mother, Handan Sultan, and grandmother, Safiye Sultan, had the power in the harem and both women did not like Kösem at all, Özgürel said.
“Both [women] thought Kösem’s love would drive the sultan crazy. This is why Mahpeyker was not shown to him for a long time. They showed him other women and Ahmet I had a baby from Mahfiruz Sultan. When Kösem learned it, she tried to escape from the palace but Ahmet I prevented her. He sent his grandmother from the palace and warned his mother,” he said.
Genç Osman, who ascended the throne after the death of Ahmet I, sent Kösem Sultan from the palace but two years later he was killed by the Janissaries, said Özgürel, adding that the next sultan, Mustafa III, was dethroned because he was insane, meaning 11-year-old Murat IV, Kösem’s son, ascended the throne.
Later, when Murat IV died young, Turhan Sultan’s seven-year-old son, Mehmet IV, ascended the throne, leading to a fight for power between the two women, Özgürel said. “Kösem organized an assassination plot to kill Mehmet IV, but Turhan Sultan learned about the assassination plans and had Kösem killed.”