Back in 2010, documentary filmmaker Mohammad Ali Naqvi, aka Mo, decided to chronicle his personal journey of exploring the evolution of Pakistani democracy in the lead up to the 2013 general election.
During this time he had unprecedented access to interviewing and documenting the candidates, including former president Gen Musharraf, who was in self-imposed exile in Dubai. The final product of this journey — Inshallah Democracy — was screened at Capri cinema on Sunday morning.
The screening was organised by Goethe Institut in collaboration with the Documentary Association of Pakistan. Two short films Ghungroo and Ganda Nala, which were part of a project by Goethe Institut, were also previewed before the screening of Mr Naqvi’s film.
“When I began the film I had this idea in my head that it would be a simple comeback story reminiscent of Richard III where you have this Shakespearean former leader [Gen Musharraf] ridiculed in irrelevancy and trying for a comeback and dealing with his own demons and it was more of a tragic piece,” he said talking to the audience after the screening.
“That is kind of what I was going for, but when I actually started filming and the more I saw…for me to actually ignore the footage I was getting was becoming more and more difficult. It wasn’t tragic, it was quite hilarious,” he added.
The film which took five years to make also looks at Karachi’s evolution from the 1990s. The film opens with gruesome footage of a sectarian attack which shocks the audience but adds contexts for a post 9/11 generation. What is striking about the film is how Mr Naqvi has woven himself into the narrative.
Talking about this, he said: “I hadn’t intended to put myself in the story and remember when I started the story I was all about Musharraf and thought yes, he is the best. Through the film I actually go through a change myself and realise, haha, I was wrong and that is what this film is about.”
He added: “If I just wanted to criticise Musharraf it would have been really boring…it wouldn’t be a narrative. He’s kind of a one note guy…what was interesting is that my relationship was evolving and I was evolving in my own political consciousness so that became an intentional decision, but I didn’t arrive at that decision till the very end.”
And that is exactly what held the audience spellbound for more than an hour on Sunday morning.
Two sisters, Fatima and Tasneem, thoroughly enjoyed the film. As avid filmgoers, they were quite excited to watch Mo Naqvi’s fifth film.
“We — as a common person — learnt a lot about former president Pervez Musharraf and his time in power. I am a housewife and did not know a lot of things about democracy, politics and how the government was being run and after watching Inshallah Democracy I feel that I have learnt something new,” said Tasneem.
Her older sister, Fatima, a retired librarian said, “He [Mo Naqvi, the film’s director] gave a very personal view and I think it helped us understand him, the film’s subject and our country,” she said.
Originally published in Dawn, March 25th, 2019