“MY CHILDHOOD WAS LIKE A DREAM. I WAS A VERY HAPPY CHILD. MAYBE WE WERE THE LAST HAPPY CHILDREN WHO HAD LIVED WITHIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURE.”
Cem Davran is among the beloved faces of television. Cem Davran who is a great player is playing lately Cemal character in “Hayat Yokuşu” that is broadcasted on TRT 1. He is one of the most demanded names by the production companies and viewers. We have talked about his neighborhood days, his childhood, his neighbor relations, his children, and his father.
What type of a neighborhood did you grow up?
We used to be a society that experienced everything in life like it happens in a movie. We were all dreamers. A society that cannot dream means it is struggling. We used to be a society that could see a dream, maybe thousands of dreams all together at once. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods. Our neighbors were like our families. Sometimes, your closest relative, maybe your brother, wouldn’t know your pain or happiness but your neighbors would. When I come home from school, if my mom was not home, I would be confused about which neighbor’s house to go. Because if I went to Aunt Fikriye’s, Madam Katina would huff about me not going to her house. If I went to Madam Katina’s then Miss Melahat would be cross with me. Those were the days that we had experienced all the faiths and sensations together in peace and love. When I was leaving home to take the children’s theatre entrance exam, Aunt Fikriye, she was from the same village as my mom was, was praying in one corner with her hands open in the air and Madam Leftali was crossing herself. Everyone would do anything within their power so a child who lives in their neighborhood would pass an exam. I grew up in such a place. I miss those days. The most important thing in the neighborhoods of ancient İstanbul was that many people from different faiths and culture were all together. Everyone respected each other’s faith. Moreover, they used to put extra effort in it so everyone could live their religion freely.
There used to be morning coffees and what was cooking in one home would be passed around the neighborhood…
An Italian family used to live in our neighborhood. We were friends with their kids. Their father was Italian and their mother was German. I still see their children. For example, if someone’s son was drafted in our neighborhood, the Italian father would do whatever their tradition would call for the situation. When the children had lost their father, people of our neighborhood didn’t leave them alone. Gisella used to call my sister and I from the balcony, “My mom made a strawberry cake, come over.” When my mom made something special, we used to invite them over to our house. My childhood was like a dream. I was a very happy child. Certainly, my priority was my own family but at the same time, my biggest family was my neighborhood. Maybe, we were the last happy children who had lived within the neighborhood culture.
We used to shop from the grocery store in our neighborhood and had it put on the cuff…
Yes, everyone used to understand each other. We used to live in a small house. Our relatives used to come to stay. There used to be Uncle Selahattin’s grocery store below. Our account would grow for 2-3 months. If our relatives were to stay longer, the account would be doubled. The owner would know that. When my father visited him to apologize, he would say that it was no problem because we had guests. The shopkeepers of my neighborhood used to think that they were supposed to contribute. I bring luck when I enter into a store. The moment I enter into a shop, other customers start coming. Uncle Selahattin used to tell my mom that I was bringing luck to his shop and I should go to his shop every day. I used to stop by his shop every morning on the way to school and he used to give me a wafer. We were that united, we were that connected.
Traumas that we carry for a lifetime actually come from our childhood, they begin in the family, right?
That’s right. ‘Growing up by falling down and standing up’ is also valid when you are an adult. You fell you hurt your knee it is the same thing with your soul. Therefore, raising a child is a hard business.
Was your father like you or was he a more disciplined father?
He was less educated but a better father than I am. If I could have achieved being a father, just as good as he was, I would be very happy. Both my father and my mother are very good people, I am lucky. My mother is alive but my father died. He was like a father from fairytales, just like Hulusi Kentmen. He was a father who kept his family together, cared about his children, tried to do his best for us, and never wanted something for himself. My mother on the other hand could trick you into eating the same soup seven days of the week as if it is a different dish each time. They were playing a game of happiness. I was the child of an ordinary civil servant family. We didn’t feel the financial incompatibility. We were rich in other ways. We were enjoying life.
Is there any life lessons that you can pass to your sons from your father?
My father was a great storyteller. He was just like the father in Tim Burton’s Big Fish. Someone who doesn’t know him could think that he is lying. He would tell something true like it was a story. Maybe that’s why I chose art. He had unique aphorisms that can be used in Twitter. He used to say, “A donkey cannot become a dervish for carrying wood to the dervish lodge.” I tell this story to young people; my father buys a taxi license plate with his savings many years ago but he doesn’t know how to drive a car and he ends up hiring a driver. One day the driver disappears. The next day when my father finds the guy he yells at him. Then the guy tells my father to do whatever he wants with his car and leaves him in the middle of nowhere alone with it. Since he doesn’t know how to drive, he and the car stare at each other. May God rest his soul in peace, people used to take advantage of my father’s good intentions very often. He used to tell me all the time, “Son, if you have your own business some day, let’s say that it is a restaurant, you have to be able to cook yourself if your cook quits.”
Does your mother have interesting aphorisms or warnings?
My mother is from the Blacksea region. She is different, may God bless her heart. She still sings songs, and ballads. She said, “Son, don’t you ever make a 45 minute series, make it longer (laughter.) Be careful about primetime, get your payments in advance, and watch out for royalties.” Because literary and artistic works are very important for my mother (laughter.)
What are your sons up to these days?
One goes to high school in third class and the other one goes to university. He is his third year. One is going to Bodrum with his friends today and the other one is going on a date with his girlfriend. Papa bear works, mama bear spends the money that I earn actually at this very moment in either Kanyon or İstinyepark (laughter.) That is it.
What if your sons tell you that ‘we want to become players, too… ?’
My older son is studying classical music at conservatoire. The younger one is studying at the Italian High school. He wants to study cinema. I don’t tell him anything about it. If he gets to love this major and if he wants to walk through that road, then I can only support him. My older son has already made his decision. He chose music. I am their supporter. They are going to find their own way.