Kemal Sunal

Ali Kemal Sunal (10 November 1944 3 July 2000) was a Turkish actor. With Hababam Sınıfı, Kapıcılar Kralı and Davaro, Sunal gained large popularity amongst Turkish cinema goers and was famed for his character "Şaban", a role he frequently played.

Kemal Sunal
Ali Kemal Sunal

(1944-11-10)10 November 1944
Died3 July 2000(2000-07-03) (aged 55)
Flight between Istanbul and Trabzon
Resting placeZincirlikuyu Cemetery, Şişli, Istanbul
EducationMarmara University
Years active1964–2000

he had a nephew called Arda Ozdogan


Kemal Sunal graduated from Vefa Lisesi (Vefa High School). In his early ages, he started pursuing what was to become a long and successful acting career in minor roles in various theatres. For a brief period, he worked in the Kenterler Theatre and debuted in the play Zoraki Tabip. He was later transferred to the Devekuşu Kabare Theatre, where he performed his acting.

He was recognized as a real talent, and started receiving offers for movies with larger budgets and a more famous cast. His first bigger role was in the film "Tatlı Dillim" directed by Ertem Eğilmez. In a matter of years, Sunal co-starred alongside Halit Akçatepe, Şener Şen and Münir Özkul.

Perhaps the most famous of all his parts was when he played in Hababam Sınıfı (The Outrageous Class) and was known by the name of "Şaban", but most of his classmates just called him İnek (cow) Şaban. İnek Şaban was constantly bullied and humiliated by his friends, but this never kept him from thinking the unthinkable, like digging a tunnel to escape school grounds (which later, turned out to lead to the vice-principal’s office) or smoking in the school attic. The character was so pure and so fixed in the memories of the Turkish people, it was never replaced by another actor in the recent re-shootings of Hababam Sınıfı, most probably as a sign of respect to Sunal.

His other notable characters include: Tosun Pasha; Süt Kardeş Şaban; Çöpçüler Kralı, who fell in love with a municipality officer’s fiancée; Doktor Civanım, a former hospital janitor pretending to be a doctor upon his return to his home village; and finally "Orta Direk Şaban", a naive man trying to become an athlete to impress his crush.

The huge popularity of his movies stemmed not only from their unique humour but also their depiction of the many problems faced by the poor rural people in Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s. In almost all of his films, Kemal Sunal plays a poor man, trying to make a living.

Sunal’s last film was Propaganda, which was directed by Sinan Çetin. Sunal, played a customs officer-in-charge (presumably) on the Syrian border. Being a serious drama, this film was a contrast to his other works. As the plot unfolded, Sunal’s character fell into despair, trying to survive the dilemma between his duties as an officer of the law and his duties as a friend. In the public opinion, this film was not the best of his works. Another significant fact about this film is that it also included Ali Sunal, Kemal Sunal’s son, cast as a junior customs officer.

Personal life

Sunal kept himself and his family away from the media and rarely appeared in public. People who knew him have commented on how serious he was in his real life, in contrast to the funny characters he played in his movies. Whilst he was at the top of his career, he decided to finish university, which he had dropped out of in his early career. Despite his fame, he attended the university like a regular student and stated that "that was the way he liked it to be".

Sunal's dreams of higher-education were disrupted in 1980, during the period of military takeover. His attempts to earn a degree finally paid off in 1995, when he earned his bachelor’s degree in Radio Television and Cinema Studies from Marmara University. He then decided to pursue a master’s degree (the topic of this thesis being himself), which he earned in 1998, also from Marmara University. This incident was covered by the media with headlines like "İnek Şaban Master Yaptı" (Şaban the Geek got a master's degree) while his 'classmates' from Hababam Sinifi made comments like "Profesorluk Bekliyoruz" ("We expect full professorship"). At his graduation ceremony, he made a speech joking that his path of first working and then attending university later in life was better as it allowed him to gain real life experience first.


Kemal Sunal died on July 3, 2000, as a result of a sudden heart attack aboard a flight to Trabzon just before take-off. He was reported to be afraid of flying. His death caused mourning that swept the entire nation and dominated news coverage for many days. He was interred at the Zincirlikuyu Cemetery in Istanbul.

Kemal Sunal and his wife Gül Sunal had two children, Ali and Ezo Sunal.


Television series

1992 Saygılar Bizden
1993 Şaban Askerde Şaban
1994 Bay Kamber Bay Kamber[1]
1997 Şaban İle Şirin Şaban


  • 1977: 14. Antalya Film Şenliği (14th Antalya Film Festival), Best Actor, Kapıcılar Kralı
  • 1998: 35. Antalya Film Şenliği (35th Antalya Film Festival), Lifetime honorary award, Kapıcılar Kralı
  • 1989: 2. Ankara Film Şenliği (2nd Ankara Film Festival), Best Actor, Düttürü Dünya


1998TV ve Sinemada Kemal Sunal GüldürüsüSel YayınlarıISBN 9755702629 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.
2001Kemal Sunal GüldürüsüOm YayıneviISBN 9756827793


Further reading

  • Gül Sunal, Kemal Hadi Gel, Bi Kahve İçelim, Doğan Kitap, ISBN 9786050923216
  • Feriha Karasu Gürses, Kemal Sunal Film Başka Yaşam Başka, Sel Yayınları, Istanbul 2002, ISBN 9755701524
  • Nuran Turan, Kemal Sunal Çocukken, Önel Yayınevi, ISBN 9757248924
  • Vadullah Taş, Kemal Sunal Filmlerini Anlatıyor, Esen Kitap ISBN 9786056224508
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Cüneyt Arkın
Golden Orange Award
for Best Actor

for Kapıcılar Kralı
Succeeded by
Tarık Akan
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