Veteran Turkish actor Zeki Alasya dies at 72, leaving millions in mourning

Turkish veteran actor and director Zeki Alasya, best known for his roles in comedy movies in the 1970s, died at an Istanbul hospital Friday morning due to liver disease, leaving millions of Turks who grew up watching his kindhearted, goofy screen characters in mourning.

Alasya had been receiving treatment at Koc University Hospital for the past two weeks. He was reported to have died at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.

The late artist started his early career in 1959 at the theater of a students’ union as an amateur stage actor. He also worked in other jobs, including as a decorator and tourist guide.

In 1964, he began to perform professionally at the Arena Theater. During that period, he took part in plays such as quotMister NATO,quot quotSchool of Crowsquot and quotChampagne and Whiskey.quot After working at the Ulvi Uraz Theater in 1965, he became one of the founders of the Devekuiu Kabare (Ostrich Cabaret) Theater, along with renowned actors and directors Haldun Taner, Metin Akpinar and Ahmet Gulhan. Alasya was involved in all of the group’s plays, either as an actor, writer or director.

In 1973, Alasya started to take part in movies. He teamed up with Akpinar, and the pair became the most popular duo in Turkish cinema. Alasya and Akpinar starred together in many movies for the next 37 years. In most of these they were depicted as two naive buddies moving to the big city from a village, unexpectedly becoming rich or trying unique ways to become wealthy.

In 1977, Alasya started to direct movies, a majority of which he also acted in. After taking a long break in his career, he played in the 1999 film quotule Gulequot (Bye Bye).

Alasya also played relatively low-profile characters in a number of TV series in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Speaking to the CNN Turk TV station on his friend’s death, Akpinar said: quotZeki Alasya was my other half, I have lost it. This is a big loss for everyone.quot Referring to previous rumors about the pair being estranged, Akpinar said: quotWe had not separated until death tore us apart. Those rumors of splitting up were irrational. But now we actually have been separated those [who circulated the rumors] can be happy now.quot Akpinar explained that Alasya’s liver problem was diagnosed at a late stage and it was too late to do anything about it. According to Akpinar, the actor’s condition had worsened over the past 15 days.

Ayien Gruda, a veteran Turkish actress who played in many movies with Alasya, commenting on his death to the media, said: quotZeki was the kind of person who managed to remain a child at heart. I learned political theater from Alasya and Akpinar. I still can’t believe this. Today, every household [in Turkey] has a funeral.quot

Documentary maker Nebil Ozgenturk told the media that Alasya and Akpinar together became a quotpopular opposition,quot performing stage plays describing tragicomic situations in the country. Ozgenturk also said: quotJealousy and egoism are prevalent in art circles. But brother Zeki was a man of modesty. You could see him playing ordinary character roles on TV until recent times. Brother Zeki managed to become a giant in those roles. He came from the streets and he differed from many other actors with his good heart and humility.quot

Well-known actor and director Mujdat Gezen also commented on Alasya’s passing, saying: quotI am so sad to lose a brother. Last week when I went to visit him, I noticed that he was not feeling well. He had trouble speaking. What is outstanding about him was his humanity, more so than his acting. He used to help and lend money to everyone. While others lived in wealth, he lived in debt.quot