BAGHDAD — If once was not enough, Egyptians are now tuning in for a second helping of the hugely popular “King Faruq” teledrama, which presents their last king more sympathetically than his usual caricature as a debauched puppet of the West.
The series aired on pan-Arab satcaster MBC during Ramadan but is now being given a second screening, this time every evening simultaneously on two Egyptian channels.
And the auds are coming back for more.
“Everyone is talking about it and you can detect a whiff of nostalgia for the monarchy,” says columnist Samir Raafat, who believes the series is tearing away the mythology surrounding the king deposed in 1952 by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
King Faruq, who ascended the throne at age 16 following the sudden death of his father Fuad, fled from Egypt aboard his yacht when Nasser and his “Free Officers” staged their coup in 1952. He died in exile in Rome in 1964.
Nasser, an anti-imperialist hero, ended the corrupt monarchy and replaced it with a populist regime built on Arab nationalist ideology.
With a jutting chin and military cap, Nasser had in Egyptian movies long been contrasted with the corrupt and aristocratic Faruq, who was portrayed as a plaything of colonial power Britain.
But in “King Faruq,” Syrian actor Tayem al-Hassan gives Faruq a softer airing, portraying him as a modernizer caught up in palace intrigues amid a mounting nationalist movement.
“It’s a shame that he came to the throne too early, where he suffered continuously under the British,” a cousin of Faruq, Prince Hussein Tussun, said in comments on the teledrama.
“His image was caricatured to the extreme and the (television) series has re-established the truth.”
Egyptian scriptwriter Lamis Gaber has, however, been criticized as being too kind to Faruq.
“The film’s huge success is explained by Egypt’s despair with the lack of democracy under the (President Hosni) Mubarak regime — even if the past is being over-glorified,” says Alaa Aswani, author of “The Yacoubian Building”.
“The series is remarkable… but too enthusiastic about Faruq, who fought relentlessly with the nationalist Wafd party,” he says. “His regime was not a model of democracy, even if it’s worse now.”