By Michele Calderon
Cesur Alemdaroglu - the multi-syllabic name has a lilting quality, representing the smooth, confident charm and complex character of the man played by Kivanç Tatlitug in his leading role in the 2016-2017 Turkish drama series Cesur ve Güzel.
As with many Turkish first names, Cesur has a specific meaning of its own - the Brave. A very apt description of the character we get to discover as the episodes progress. A man in his early to mid-30s (his exact age is not revealed), Cesur has come to the small Turkish town of Korludag ostensibly to buy property, but in reality to seek justice for the tragic deaths of his grandparents and his father whom he believes have been killed by Tahsin Korludag, the town’s namesake and most powerful resident. Highly intelligent, worldly, and educated Cesur has spent most of his adult life abroad, in Europe and the US, after the death of his father.
Cesur wants revenge from Tahsin who owns multiple properties and businesses throughout the area, and swears to take “everything he owns” from him. For his own sake, as well as for the peace of mind of his beloved mother Fügen who is suffering from early Alzheimer’s, Cesur goes about methodically implementing a plan to recover what he believes has been stolen from them: their family’s identity and heritage, including valuable works of art painted by Cesur’s late father Hasan.
Courage is indeed a key characteristic of Cesur's personality as we watch him pursue his plan and refuse to bend to the overt and more subtle threats of Tahsin and his surrogates, who correctly see the mysterious newcomer as a challenge to the established order they have created in Korludag, with the help of corrupt local authorities. Supremely self-confident, and a natural born leader Cesur quickly establishes himself as a local resident willing to defend not only his own rights but those of other locals who have been living under the tyranny of Tahsin.
Watching Cesur interact with the many characters he comes in contact with shortly upon his arrival in the area, including Tahsin’s beautiful and haughty daughter Sühan, his troubled son Korhan, and Sühan’s fiancé Bülent Aydinbas I kept thinking what a smooth operator he is.
According to Wiktionary that expression refers to “a person who accomplishes tasks with efficiency and grace, especially one with verbal skills who is persuasive in interpersonal relationships and negotiation”. Indeed Cesur is a superb communicator and a “people person”, as described by Kivanc himself in a 2017 interview on the set of Cesur ve Guzel.
Cesur displays his bravery in myriad ways including in the very first scene when he drives his Jeep dangerously close to the edge of a precipice to rescue Sühan whose horse is running wild. The scene (which took four days to shoot) is precisely choreographed and well-directed, requiring Cesur to jump from a car in motion onto the horse’s back, at high speed. Later, Cesur rescues Tahsin from a burning inferno when his house is set on fire by a jealous Bülent.
Yet, Cesur is not a one-note hero. As the episodes unfold, the complexities of his character come into view. Under the confident, alpha male persona we discover a highly sensitive, caring individual with “deep emotions buried inside him”, as Kivanç has also said. His caring side is displayed in many different ways but none more poignant than the devotion Cesur shows towards his mother Fügen; that deeply loving, close relationship was beautifully acted by Kivanç and actress Tilbe Saran, and particularly resonated with me, as the mother of a grown son, as a key factor in the appeal of the show.
Cesur’s caring and tender side also takes front and center in his growing relationship with Sühan, the figurative and literal heart of the series. In her 1984 song Smooth Operator Sade sang of a man like Cesur:
Placing high stakes, making hearts ache. He's loved in seven languages. Heaven help him, when he falls.
And Cesur falls - deeply in love with Suhan whom he had cynically sworn to conquer as Tahsin’s "most valuable possession". Ultimately, and thankfully for those of us who love happy endings, Cesur and Sühan’s deep love for each other help them overcome all obstacles.
Cesur is a supremely attractive man, a whole package of looks, intelligence, competence, and skills. Kivanc’s multi-faceted skills are once again on display giving the character a well- rounded appeal: we see him driving a Jeep at high speed, mounting a horse without the help of stirrups (twice), kick boxing with his enemies, building an iron cage with power tools, but also leading Sühan in a perfect tango, cooking for her ("macaroni with butter" for her hangover), and doing “Cesur water therapy” with her in a sensual pool scene, to the tune of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, that will long be remembered by fans of the series. And who can forget his statement in Episode 1 that she had ”never met a real man” until she met him. Kivanç delivers that line with a mixture of cockiness, charm and underlying tender irony that many women will find hard to resist.
Cesur was the second of Kivanc’s acting roles that I discovered after Seyit the Wolf in Kurt Seyit ve Sura. As with Seyit, I was held spellbound by his portrayal of Cesur, in a rich, deeply emotional and multilayered performance. Kivanç immersed himself fully in creating the physical and psychological aspects of the character. In that his work is very much in line with older, method actors such as Daniel Day Lewis, and Robert De Niro.
Kivanc’s athletic good looks are ideally suited to the role and he cuts a charismatic figure as Cesur. With a full beard, and long, slightly messy hair in the first half of the show, successfully sporting a "man bun" in several scenes, he is equally at ease in rugged boots, jeans and plaid shirts, as in an elegant dark blue suit, or a pale blue tuxedo jacket.
A highlight of watching CvG for me was the exceptional styling of the character by Kivanc’s wife Basak Dizer, a well-known stylist who has worked with Kivanc in multiple shows. Cesur appears in every shade of blue known to man, enhancing Kivanç’s eyes, along with neutral colors including camel, olive, and gray, all perfectly appropriate to each scene. One especially stunning look was a tan wool coat worn over a black turtleneck, encapsulating Cesur’s confident elegance.
As he has done for other roles, notably in Kuzey Güney, Kivanç developed the character in part through specific mannerisms his fans refer to as Cesur-isms”: the side look from slanted eyes, the tilt of the head in sarcastic disbelief, the pursed lips denoting a reflective mood, the slow, smoldering smile - all making Cesur a very unique character.
While always outstanding in the romantic scenes, Kivanç’s acting brilliance shines in his portrayal of Cesur’s inner struggle between his love for Sühan and his need for vengeance. Watching him portray Cesur’s raw anguish at witnessing his mother’s death, then in a searing scene at the morgue, letting out with uncontrolled rage at the thought Tahsin could go free, then rejecting Sühan herself with the feral look of a wounded animal, is watching a world-class actor at work. His emotions are so real, they grab you by the gut.
This inner fight between an “impossible love” and loyalty to family has been a hallmark of several of the roles Kivanç has chosen to play throughout his 16 year acting career including Behlül Haznedar in Aşk i Memnu and Kuzey Tekinoglu in Kuzey Güney. In Cesur ve Güzel, Kivanç takes us right inside the character’s psyche in several key scenes - including in episode 17 where he shows us Cesur's inner torment through quick changes in his eyes, facial expressions, even the color of his face and neck: displaying his sadness, and deep feelings for Sühan, then overboiling with rage when she tries to convince him that her father “didn’t do it”.
Cesur was renewed evidence for me that Kivanç cannot resist an acting challenge. Tellingly, in the aforementioned 2017 interview Kivanç disclosed he had to work hardest to portray the cool and collected, methodical aspects of Cesur’s personality which he said were unlike his own. He was particularly fascinated, he said, by Cesur’s calm analytical mind and how he had pre-planned his interactions with each and every person he encountered in Korludag. Though Kivanç had to submerge his own temperament to bring the more cool-headed Cesur to life, the result seems effortless.
In spite of the fact that for this viewer, at least, the script lost its way at times with too much attention given to less interesting, secondary plot lines, Cesur ve Güzel features excellent writing, acting, and directing; sizzling chemistry between Kivanç and co-star Tuba Büyüküstün; and a wonderful musical score by Toygar Isikli. But the highlight of this show for me will remain Kivanç’s unforgettable turn as Cesur.
The last images of the series showing Cesur, his wife Sühan and their baby, finally together as a family, sailing away to an unknown destination were a most satisfying and moving ending to this excellent television series, with Sühan’s narrative a fitting epilogue:
Sometimes life gives a second chance. If you believe and do not lose hope, your dreams can become reality.
Originally from Paris, France Michele Calderon lived for over three decades in Washington D.C. while raising a son and pursuing a career in business development and international development consulting. She now resides with her husband on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to writing, her passions include reading, film watching and analyzing, spending time in nature and traveling.
(C) Copyright by Kivanc Tatlitug North America and Michele Calderon
No copyright infringement is intended. All photos and media belong to their respective owners.