More than ten years after the successful East is East, comes West Is West, screen writer, Ayub Khan-Din’s second film in the trilogy loosely based on his own Anglo-Pakistani experiences.
The action of West Is West is set five years on from the original film. Now out of his parker, the audience follows the experiences of George and Ella Khan’s youngest son, now fifteen. In contrast to the first film which was more of an ensemble film, revolving around several of the children’s experiences, West Is West is a much more focused piece, particularly focusing on Sajid and his father. Although this means the film does not flow quite as effortlessly as its predecessor and there are definitely more emotionally dramatic sequences and fewer laughs, the film does manage to retain the social realism and the fantastic depictions of family relationships.
Starting in Salford, Sajid (Aqib Khan) and his father’s relationship is at an all time low. George (Om Puri) has resorted to walking his son to school in an effort to stop his truancy, unaware that Sajid truants to evade bullies who target him on account of his father’s ethnicity. After Sajid turns on his father in a foul mouth tirade, George decides his son must learn to accept who he truly is. To achieve this he takes Sajid to stay with the family he left 35 years ago when he left Pakistan for England.
The decision to set the action in Pakistan does echo many sequels in which characters are just transported to a new environment for the sake of it. In West Is West, however, the Pakistani environment is hugely important. Not only allowing Sajid to accept his ethnicity, it also allows George to return to the wife and the daughters he abandoned – which is perhaps the most poignant part of the film. The situation George is in comes to climax as his English wife, Ella turns up in Pakistan to collect her son. Upon her arrival it is important to say that she is assuming George will be staying in Pakistan with his first wife as he has emptied his English Bank account in order to build a new home for his first family. Ella learns however, that this was just a way for George to ease his guilt. She also learns, from George’s first wife, that George no longer has a place in Pakistan, he is a stranger to the family. Showing shame for his treatment of both his families, George is ready to accept his son who, with the help of a philosophical guru, is now ready to accept his father.
After each family member has learned something from their experiences in Pakistan (something which, although somewhat clichéd, is easy to see past) the film comes full circle with the family returning to Salford. Although not as explicit as the first film, there are a few laughs in West Is West, most of them pulling on language and cultural differences. The film is also rich in believable dramatic scenes – if you enjoyed East is East then this is a must see, purely to be reunited with the very likeable Khan family.
Best performance: Om Puri as George Khann.
Best scene: Basheera and Ella’s heart to heart, despite not understanding one another’s language.
Best line: ‘Don’t you dare shit yourself in front of this lot’.
Watch this if you liked: East is East.