Interview with Murat Palta – Genius Behind Oriental Remakes of Hollywood Classics

Oriental-esque Godfather by Murat Palta

“It began two years ago,” according to Murat Palta who studied graphic designing at Dumlupınar University Kütahya, Turkey, “with an experiment to blend traditional ‘oriental’ (Ottoman) motifs and contemporary ‘western’ cinema. After a positive response to “Ottoman Star Wars”, I decided to take the theme further, and developed more film posters using the same technique.”

And it turned out fantastic. Making waves all over the internet and various art e-zines, Palta’s oriental illustrations of Hollywood classics has the perfect aesthetic blend of the east and the west. Dressed up in sheikh garb while taking in the scent of a rose, our chubby villain Darth Vader looks pleasantly carefree among his equally well-dressed minions. Jack from The Shining doesn’t look so threatening either.

Considering how the eastern aspect of his digital illustrations meshed well with my (often critical and harsh) academic pursuits of orientalism and its various forms, I decided to take Mr. Palta’s interview – for some art-education and fun. Our digital doodler was kind enough to take some time out to talk.

Mehreen Kasana: So what’s up these days?

Murat Palta: I’m not studying anymore but I have to finish my internship to get my diploma. I finished graphic department of Dumlupınar University (placed in Kütahya) two months ago [but] there’s an obligatory internship that has to be done. All I am doing [right now] is to deal with it.

MK: How did you get this idea? Is there a precedence to it? Because it seems like the first attempt at blending two eras – and that too with quite some eccentricity.

MP: Me and my brother like to talk about movies. Once we were talking about Star Wars, asking each other “What it would be like if it was [the] Ottoman Empire?” and I illustrated what we had talked [about]. After uploading it to a Turkish website, I recieved nice responses. At the last year of university, I decided to carry it further as my thesis for graduation.

MK: Typical question. How long did it take? All that detail! Especially the Oriental re-creation of Star Wars – I see our iconic villain in quite the relaxing sheikh mode.

MP: I don’t remember much about Star Wars but as far as I remember it took like two days with lots of breaks, of course. On the other hand, the other [illustrations] were totally troubling. In the class, everyone was working on their project but the teacher was also giving some side projects which were unnecessary. So I decided that it was not going to be like this and I stayed at home for two weeks, without going to school. I acted as if it was my job. I used to wake up early, have breaks at certain times. After two weeks, they were finished.

MK: Usually artistic folks don’t enjoy sharing the tricks of their trade. I’ll try this on you: What did you use for your graduation thesis other than your obviously fantastic creativity? Tablet?

MP: Hahah, yes and a computer of course. But seriously, there’s no catch. I just went to the school library, examined the characters and everything about style. Also, I found a book with oriental ornaments. So I digitalized them as patterns. Eveything else was regular: I drew them with a tablet. Of course, there were some characters from the movies that I don’t remember [clearly]. So I paused the scenes where they acted, and drew them on the computer. Before that, I made lots of sketches on paper.

MK: Tough stuff, damn. In one of the illustrations – my favorite, i.e. – Jack is raging while his wife cowers in the bathroom – one of the unforgettable scenes from The Shining. There’s some very nice text in the left and right corners of the drawings – and since I can’t read Turkish (assuming that it is the language) – would you mind translating the particular text above Jack’s head?

MP: Sure. At the right top, it says “lunacy”. This is how the movie is named in Turkey. At the left, above Danny it says: Danny sees twin sisters’ illussion. And above Jack’s head: Jack breaks the door under possession.

MK: Creepy. There are dozens of Hollywood classics. What made you pick the ones in your paintings? Was the selection difficult? Or was it made on a pop culture basis considering how our internet is obsessed with Pulp Fiction jokes and A Clockwork Orange, Godfather references?

MP: We can say all of them were the parts for me to decide. I sought for the movies with three qualities: They had to be titled “classic” or “cult” so that everyone could recognise what the miniatures were about, even though he or she hadn’t seen the movie yet. They had to contain some reflections from western culture. They had to be adapted to eastern culture or miniature style. So these movies had these three qualities – more or less.

MK: It’s hard to believe these are digital illustrations, is what someone exclaimed to me. They further explained how the detail and texture looked amazing thus the disbelief. How long has it taken for you to master strokes and angles on a digital medium? Is it a lot tougher than an actual painting on a canvas?

MP: Sometimes. For instance, personally I like working with paper and pencil. It’s more enjoyable for me and it’s easier. To talk about digital medium, its advantage is colouring. Also, if you make a mistake, it’s easy to take it back. Since I didn’t have much time, I had to make them with a digital medium. Honestly, even if I had time I would still make them [on the same platform]. Because my aim was also to prove that traditional can go together with digital. Controlling strokes and angles didn’t take much time but at first, it was little hard for me to control the tablet. I had been using the mouse [before]. At the time I was working on the project, it had been four months or something since I bought the tablet and till that time, I just used it infrequently. But after all, I made it!

MK: I’ll stop pestering you now. Before I stop, got any tips or friendly advice for aspiring artists and illustrators?

MP: I’m too young to give tips but I can give some friendly advice: I think graphic artists shouldn’t try hard to draw great. Instead, they should try hard to find different ideas so that they can take a [different] step for graphic art.

MK: Thanks for your time, Murat. Awesome work.

Check out the whole set here. There should be a book of these.

In other news: The short film Assad Zulifqar Khan wrote and I co-wrote, depicted in Zia ul Haq’s dark era, is receiving interesting reviews from the audience. Make sure you check out the trailer and the review by Saadia Qamar for Express Tribune.

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