Written by Suat Köçer

Always playing the character on the side of the good, the righteous, and the underdog, Münir Özkul left his mark on Turkish cinema with roles that underline vanishing social mores, traditional family structure, and human relations.

The biggest mistake in an article on Münir Özkul would be to set off the introduction with his birth or to lay out the text in straight chronology. At any rate, it is impossible to condense half a century of artistic journey through more than two hundred movies, dozens of plays, and about as many TV series of this master whose roles have won the admiration of audiences from all ages and social backgrounds. Therefore, the aim of this article is to leave hronology
to historians, and remember a life full of heart touching movies, and how Münir Özkul’s stance, distilled from those films, has taken on a mission and made an impression on the people.

The days when the country was dealing with military memorandums and coups, while the society was dragged into chaos, are the days Münir Özkul was shining in theater and just taking an interest in cinema. A career started in 1948 in the Ses Theater moved on to Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater, İstanbul State Theaters, and then to Ankara State heaters. Meanwhile, life struggles caused by economic troubles, mainly inflation, and ideological polarization fueled by political protests gripped the nation and increased the social tension day by day. During these years, the Arzu Film school was just coming into its own; and a series of films under the direction of Ertem Eğilmez, and the they characters portrayed, were seriously influencing the public mind. Despite starting his film career with ‘Üçüncü Selim’in Gözdesi’, written by Nazım Hikmet and İhsan Koza, Münir Özkul flourished under these movies directed by Ertem Eğilmez. The sincere, dignified, and conscientious roles we will discuss in this article are again from these

Turkish culture faced various issues and problems which Arzu Film movies brought to the silver screen in a comical tone, like the consequences of modernization imposed in an attempt to catch up with the West, and urbanization due to migration. The movies were well received by the audience living with these problems. In a world where life got rough and political polarization divided the society, the movies depicting united families, selfless parents, filthy rich tycoons who at the end show mercy, and honorable underdogs who pull through against all odds offered a tinge of consolation to the troubled viewers. In these movies, Münir Özkul came to the fore with his acting full of depth and
emotion, slowly becoming a hero.

Playing characters who are on the side of the good and the downtrodden in melodramas like ‘Arım Balım Peteğim’,
‘Son Hıçkırık’ and ‘Beklenen Şarkı’, the great actor gave an outstanding performance with Ertem Eğilmez’s ‘Tatlı
Dillim’ in one of his first unforgettable roles. ‘Sev Kardeşim’ of 1972 was another big hit. In the film written by Sadık Şendil and directed by Ertem Eğilmez, Münir Özkul won the sympathy of the people in his role of the loving father. Two years later, he played the same warm and sympathetic character in the widely celebrated comedy ‘Mavi Boncuk’ with a great cast comprising Adile Naşit, Kemal Sunal, Zeki Alasya, Metin Akpınar and Halit Akçatepe. In ‘Salak Milyoner’, he took on the tutelage of four naïve brothers who had moved from the village to the metropolis. Münir Özkul’s true moment came in 1975 with ‘Bizim Aile’.

The father role in ‘Bizim Aile’, with castmates Tarık Akan, Müjde Ar and the indispensable Ayşen Gruda, left its mark in the public consciousness. People responded to the father who looks after his family and protects his children while encouraging them at every chance, acting as a role model with his honest and honorable personality. The family structure at the time was under assault from migration, modernization, ideological movements, and intergenerational conflict; and such constructive films contributed positively to the public perception of the concept
of family. Özkul reached cult status with his role of Yaşar Usta as the scene of the encounter between the two fathers became a social sensation. The unforgettable starting line, “Look sir, let me have a word or two with you,” which set off Yaşar Usta’s tirade to the industrialist Saim Bey, captured, in his working class tone, the honorable standing of the poor who know that true wealth is in love and selflessness. In 1976, Münir Özkul took on the role of the loving father once again with Aile Şerefi, protecting his family from the attacks of a rich man. These characters of similar
scales made him a hero in the eyes of the audiences and created a huge following. Arzu Film continued the series with ‘Gülen Gözler’ and ‘Neşeli Günler’, which strengthened the great actor’s fatherly image. Özkul becomes the representation of the father figure in cinema.

Another film series, ‘Hababam Sınıfı’, played its part in the idolization of Münir Özkul. Ertem Eğilmez’s adaptation from Rıfat Ilgaz’s novel by the same name, the movie cast the talented actor as Mahmut Hoca, the school principle who becomes the worst nightmare of the unrestrained pranksters of the school going by honorific title ‘Hababam Sınıfı’. Despite his stern demeanor, Özkul’s character tries to teach the kids in his firm but fair way that life isn’t as easy as they think; that education, friendship, and honesty are what matters; and that virtues are very important in life. The character Mahmut Hoca was elevated to a role model in academic circles, which added to his long list of accomplishments. In an acting career spanning more than two hundred movies, Münir Özkul always played the character on the side of the good, the righteous, and the underdog. Münir Özkul left his mark on Turkish audiences
and cinema with roles that underline vanishing social mores, traditional family structure, and human relations. Even
though the only official award he received was the 1972 Adana Festival Best Character Actor Award, on his role in ‘Sev Kardeşim’ the real reward came from the love and attention he received from audiences of every generation. We salute the beloved master, his films, and his characters once again, and wish him a speedy recovery.

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Suat Köçer

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