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Friday, July 19, 2024  
12 Muharram 1446  

The Sicilian Mafia can teach you to fight rumours in Lakki Marwat

What Francis Ford Coppola showed me about being a son
A still from The Godfather with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his father Vito (Marlon Brando).
A still from The Godfather with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his father Vito (Marlon Brando).

I’ve always loved watching films, mostly because they gave me worlds to escape in and wander around in. I would emerge to emulate their characters, perhaps as a way to take on another skin because I was ill at ease in my own. My class fellows made fun of me when I did this. (I was first at a Catholic school and then at one which makes Alcatraz look like a cakewalk). Back then I was immersed in all Bollywood, whatever they played on the cable. We didn’t have the internet and I hadn’t discovered Hollywood at that time.

I found that I was increasingly drawn to the crime genre—not for the gangsters or the gore, but for the paradoxes in these larger-than-life men. As I watched what these characters did with others, something started to feel very familiar.

In the winter of 2010, Peshawar was rent by terrorism during ANP’s reign in KP. Everyone was either scared or frustrated. So was I. I wanted out. I felt as if nobody was at my wavelength. I was not comfortable with doing what my father wanted me to do. Our personalities clashed; he wanted me to focus on medicine, I wanted to read literature.

While I was preparing for my 2nd year Intermediate exams, my father bought me an old DVD player, probably out of pity because there was no outlet or entertainment in between studying. I paid a classmate to get me a copy of 1972 The Godfather, based on the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo. Its title had intrigued me and I had no idea what it was about.

One night, I slid the disc into the player and started watching once everyone went to sleep. The quality of the copy was horrible, dark and murky, and I struggled to connect with the world it portrayed, a far cry from what I had thought the Mafia was like. This was too grandiose. But I found myself moved by the relationship between the protagonist Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) and his father Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando).

It was around these days that our ancestral hometown Lakki Marwat was raided in a military operation over intel that terrorists were seeking asylum inside houses. We got a call that our house was being searched. As it turned out, however, this was a conspiracy. A village elder, an ex-MNA of the JUI-F, had tipped off someone on the inside. The motive was to render my father jobless and tarnish his reputation. The entire village turned against my father; it was then that I told myself that I must stand by him come what may.

I thought of Michael Corleone who gives up everything, his love life, his career in the military, to stand by his father when he grew weak. My entire family weathered that storm and though I was only 18, I stood up to the village elders and looked them in the eye and called them out. Eventually, they apologized. Our reputation survived intact. I had put the fear of God in them and I am not sure, but my father must have been proud of me.

I became the Michael to Vito and to this day I stand by him, right or wrong. We have our differences, I don’t always agree with his way of running the family with an iron fist, but to his credit, he respects my decisions. Coppola’s Godfather introduced me to a world which taught me that family comes first, the rest is all just talk.

The writer is a Peshawar-based filmmaker and graduate of Szabist, Islamabad.

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Lakki Marwat