Nothing is real and everything is real: Bartu Küçükçağlayan

UnframedNovember 9, 2018
Nothing is real and everything is real: Bartu Küçükçağlayan

Bartu Küçükçağlayan is a special person who carries every job he has undertaken to a very high level of standards, and makes it seem very easy in spite of all the challenges behind the scene/camera. His performances in theater plays which he is awarded (Kumarbazın Seçimi, Hoop Gitti Kafa), his roles in series that catches attention of large masses (Yalan Dünya, Jet Sosyete), his acting in independent films that have led to honors at national and international level (Çoğunluk, Kelebekler) and his tremendous musicianship at Büyük Ev Ablukada are just a few of the things that make Bartu special. It is not possible to mention all his career here. There are many reflections of this endless productivity. His role in the Kelebekler, directed by Tolga Karaçelik and awarded at the Sundance Film Festival last year, was one of the impeccable reflections of Bartu’s productivity. The film not only moved Tolga Karaçelik up to a point as the most valuable directors of his generation, but also established a strong bond between Bartu and Tolga. This bond reunited them on the new series of BluTV, Bartu Ben. Bartu wrote the script of the series. He also plays the leading role. Tolga Karaçelik sits on the director chair, or rather, on the wheelchair because of the motorcycle accident that he had during the shooting of the series. Don’t worry, Tolga is quite fine. Now he is on his feet.

By using myself, I talked about everything that I am uncomfortable. I am also in most of the things that I am uncomfortable. So, it is also something different from the psychological point of view.

On the occasion of this new series, we immediately start talking with Bartu Küçükçağlayan about “Bartu Ben” which unites absurd comedy and drama. Bartu starts his speech as “For the series people said ‘Bartu Küçükçağlayan wrote that one based upon his own life’. I hated that.” Although he appears to be playing himself in the series, he tells us that this character progresses independently of the realities of his own life. He continues as “This is actually something I have created to turn myself upside down. Nothing is real and everything is real. Nothing got out of me and everything got out of me. There are also tricks that I did to myself there. There are things that I want to be real and things that are not real. There are situations where I involve myself to make fun of myself. There are places where I’ve shown what may happen by accepting something that I normally do not accept. By using myself, I talked about everything that I am uncomfortable. I am also in most of the things that I am uncomfortable. So, it is something different. It is also different from the psychological point of view.”

His agent in the series, Şermin (has the same name in real life) says to Bartu “Your relation with the public is broken off, you even do not give interviews. Nobody knows the real Bartu.” I ask, a bit jokingly, “Who is the real Bartu? Did you find out who you are and what you want?” Laughingly, he answers “I never found what I wanted. I always want something else. Just like an envious animal, when I see something I want the same to be mine. Because of that I change my life suddenly. That’s why I have a thousand of different jobs. I’m always dealing with different things. I was never able to find what I wanted. Who is the real Bartu? I never would like to meet him. My relation with the public is broken off.”

Although he says he couldn’t find what he wanted, Bartu keeps on doing what he has found a long time ago with a genuine devotion. When we start to talk about how everything started, he reminisces the childhood days in Eskişehir. “When we were in secondary school, there were theatre auditions. I wanted to be part of it a lot, but they didn’t choose me. I was angry but it passed over time. Later I watched the play that the auditions were done for. There was someone a grade above me, Başar. Başar was playing so well… Everybody was laughing, applauding… I was immediately jealous of him. I said ‘I have to be like that’. I worked for one year. I was chosen. This time I was Başar. That’s how the acting story started. And then I watched the film The Doors (Oliver Stone, 1991). I said ‘I have to be Jim Morrison now.’ A band was set up. I started to sing. I am doing what I have been doing for 20 years.”

We talk about the first time that he’s on stage. While in Eskişehir, Bartu has performed with a punk band at the music festival take place in Eskisehir Osmangazi University. “While we were playing, the audience were at the left hand side and far away from our view. Hence, I remember playing to emptiness and concrete. At that time in Eskişehir concerts were held at traditional ballrooms, where normally people had wedding ceremonies. Junk settings. Though, those were also beautiful moments. In the 1990s, the music scene in Eskişehir was extremely good. It culturally fed me a lot.”

“Who is the real Bartu? I never would like to meet him. My relation with the public is broken off.”

Describing how Eskişehir enriched him, he also speaks about the internet, which took him beyond Eskişehir in 1998. He explains how he got into contact with Istanbul through mIRC (the popular chat software widely used on the Internet in the late 1990s), how he accessed to music that are not sold at Raksotek with Soulseek, which even downloading a single song with it can take a full day. And he adds “The last favor that Eskişehir did to me was, it made me wish to get out of there. You see, you have to go to Istanbul… During the Istanbul University State Conservatory audition Yıldız Kenter said, “Why should I accept you to this school?”. And I said, ’Eskişehir doesn’t satisfy me anymore.’ I guess that was the reason why she accept me to the school.” He says that when he moved to Istanbul, his only connection with the city was the conservatory. “ThenMrs. Yıldız was somehow suspended from the school. And afterwards I also moved away from the school. I started to perform at Kent Oyuncuları. Instantly I gave myself airs. I received awards. As I was also performing, the school started to make no sense. I did not go. I graduated in 12 years. That’s how my school story has ended.”

While he was talking about Kadıköy, the first place he started to live in Istanbul, he laughingly said “I was so withdrawn and I wasn’t leaving home, then I realized I didn’t go to Beyoğlu for years. One day my friends took me there. There was The End at Kadıköy (the famous DVD shop in the early 2000s where pirate DVDs were actively produced). The End had locked me at home with three movies per day. I guess without there, I would not have met with the independent cinema. I have opened my mind to independent cinema.” He further strengthened his relationship with the independent cinema through a course he took at Istanbul Bilgi University. “Derviş Zaim was giving script lessons. As I was writing a script recently, the words of Derviş Zaim came to my mind. Later I realized that it helped me a lot.” He began the series in order to gain independence of his life while his school adventure continued. When I ask what he remembers about the earlier stages when he started appearing in the series, he answers in one sentence. “I was fat.”

Bartu Küçükçağlayan is a person who can easily make fun of and who picks on himself. After the answer, which he gave laughingly I ask him how much he is at peace with himself. “I never think I can reconcile with myself. We fight all the time. I always win. But when I look back at that time, I see that everything has happened as it should be. The series was good for my independence. I thought I wouldn’t make any money when I become a theater player.” We start to talk about the challenges he faces while acting. Did he ever consider giving up or quitting? “When I was at the third grade at the conservatory, I remember saying ‘I won’t do acting’. When I look back, I see this as a depression in the early 20s. At that time, I was both showing off to myself and to my family. I gave myself airs, again. At that time, good things are created. Every mistake I make is dragging me to something else.”

“I never think I can reconcile with myself. We fight all the time. I always win.”

At any point in his career, was he able to say, “The job is done, I have succeeded”? I wonder that. “I’m not good at doing that. The album was released. I found something to annoy me. I learned that the series will be done. One of the people who helped Bartu Ben became real, Dilara from BKM called me. And she said ‘OK. The job is done. BluTV has accepted.’ I said ‘God damn it’. I thought hundreds of things that I’d have to deal with.” Is that the same in music? Isn’t there a moment when he can just let it go? “I am still merciless to myself. But that passed a bit in the recent years. I like the FIRTINAYT album for instance. I can listen that relievedly. Because I gave my four years to that. There’s a lot of blood in it. A lot of battles took place. Things fell apart. It turned into a battlefield.” I ask, what kind of battles took place? “Emotional battles. The cliché of ‘The production process was painful’ is also true here. I was fighting with the album all the time. It was defeating me. I was defeating it. There is a song called ‘Arayan Bulur’ within the last album. There is a sentence there. ‘The more a person grows -no offense- the more he/she looks like him/herself.’ I have worked hard to find this sentence. I had only ‘The more a person grows the more he/she looks like him/herself’ at my hand. At the end of four months I said ‘No offense!’. I’ve had four months of anxiety for five syllables. He sees his anxiety and his attention disorder (ADD) -despite their challenges- as a chance. “My father used to say ‘You are an alien, not a normal person’ Being an alien comes from my symptoms.”

We talk about how he prepares for the roles he played, how he got into the character. “I usually leave it to the directors. For me, I’m making a lot of mistakes. As they make it right, it transforms into something. And the script is very important. Sometimes the script causes you to play. There writes such a sentence that, when you say it you transform into the character itself. I do not think very much over acting. It is also clear when you watch.” He has worked with many valuable directors like Fatih Akın, Yavuz Turgul and Seren Yüce. In the last film he starred Kelebekler and in Bartu Ben, Tolga Karaçelik directed him. He describes how it is to work with Tolga. “In previous films I had worked with generations that is above myself. Tolga and I are within the same generation. We’ve started to build something great as we mutually understood each other. This continued after the film Kelebekler. I also like his friendship. We also worked together for the script process of Bartu Ben.”

“The more a person grows -no offense- the more he/she looks like him/herself.

Actually, Bartu has never written a script before Bartu Ben. He also made use of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Screenwriting Writing’ course in the Masterclass during the writing process. “After writing the script, I was entering the bathtub and watching the lessons,” he says. He wrote the entire script from the beginning to the end, being closeted. “When Tolga got involved in, he did not like some of them. He asked me to write again. I wrote again. He did not like again. I wrote again,” he says. When we start to talk about the series he laughs and says “A spectacular adventure in ten episodes! It is perceived as a comedy series. The first episode actually is. But the series has a long adventure. That will also disturb you. There is a dramatic fiction between the first and the tenth episode. I like that. Actually, I would have released  ten episodes at one go. I would like people to watch Bartu Ben like a full-length cinema film. Because Tolga also shot the series like a movie. If I had done this job without Tolga, it would have completely go to somewhere else.” When I ask about if they had any difficulties, he starts to tell us as “We did not have any difficulties. They even brought both of us to the hospital during the shooting. Tolga had a motorcycle accident. In the last two weeks, we did the shooting with a director on a wheelchair who wandered like an old grandpa. We had a director with a cane in his hand, wandering as “Hahaha!” After the hospital, we both had to go set. We both went to the set. I still miss the set. That creation, the production process is very beautiful.

Then the conversation comes to being on the stage from being in front of the camera. We start to talk about Büyük Ev Ablukada again. In one of his interviews Bartu said “When I step on the stage, it turns into a place where I don’t know what to do.” “Is that what I said? Nice wording. Normally I never stop thinking… But it stops for a while on stage. You concentrate for two and a half hours. I compare this to theater. Actually, the set of FIRTINAYT is already a set that is interconnected from top to the bottom.” Which one would he choose if he had to choose between music or cinema? “I would definitely choose the music. Music is the best of all. I feel good at the concerts. The best thing you can have in art branches is the concert,” he explains.

We start to talk about what he will do in the future. Bartu announces his next project on the agenda. “My next project is to take a rest. That is what the doctors say. Within all this process, I asked my girlfriend two questions. The first was at the time my series was accepted. I said ‘How one rejoices?’ Because I have not known how to rejoice. I just got anxious. After the series finished I said ‘How one takes a rest?’ Should I lie down? When you lie down at home, does that mean resting? I will try to find how I may take a rest. That is my project” he says.

Through the end of the interview, or rather to the moment when we would turn off the recorder, I ask “If there is any other thing you want to tell”. He starts to laugh and says “I guess I told everything that I didn’t wanted to”. I reach to my phone to see if everything is okay with the recording of the interview. He asks “How many minutes?”. It has been 45 minutes. He says “45 is very good, man. I have talked with Ezhel. I talked for two hours, like an idiot. I was in so much trouble wrapping the interview up.” We close the device with laughter. And then we talk another 45 minutes without the recording device…

Full Look: Common Leisure
Photography by Kıvılcım Güngörün
Author: Alper Bahçekapılı