Business rating: 2/5 stars
Star cast: Om Puri, Ila Arun, Aqib Khan, Linda Bassett, Sheeba Chaddha, Vijay Raaz.
What’s Good: The drama; the performances; the excellent background score.
What’s Bad: The absence of comedy, which was the hallmark of the prequel, East Is East; the Indian audience will not identify with the main protagonists, which will reduce the impact of the drama.
Verdict: West Is West will appeal to connoisseurs of good cinema. Expect it to do average business at the Indian box-office.
Loo break: None.
Watch or Not?: Watch it for Aqib Khan and Om Puri’s spirited performances.
Assassin Films and BBC Films’ West Is West (English) is the sequel to East Is East. The year is 1976 and brown-skinned people are still looked down upon in England, much more than today. After having lost the love and respect of his elder sons, Salford-based small time businessman, Jahangir Khan (Om Puri), living in Britain, decides to take his youngest son, Sajid (Aqib Khan), from his second wife to Pakistan to train the latter in the Pakistani way of life.
Much against the wishes of his second (white) wife, Ella (Linda Bassett), Jahangir a.k.a. George exerts his will and makes the journey to rural Pakistan with Sajid. Jahangir also wants to find a suitable match in Pakistan, for Maneer (Emil Marwa), his elder son from Ella. Maneer has been living in Pakistan with his father’s first wife. When Jahangir finally reaches his village in Pakistan, he discovers that his first wife, Basheera (Ila Arun), whom he had deserted 30 years ago to go to England, is a broken old woman. He also finds out that, just like his sons from his second marriage, his daughters from the first marriage, also do not respect him at all. Distraught, Jahangir entrusts Sajid in the care of a pir (Nadim Sawalha) and gives up on the chances of Maneer getting married at all, as people think that Maneer will also turn out to be like his wayward father.
Sajid finds refuge in the wisdom of the pir and the friendship of a local boy, Eyaz (Kamal Arora). A guilty Jahangir overstays in Pakistan, as against the plan. He starts regretting his decision to ever leave Pakistan. To cover his guilt, Jahangir decides to build a new house for his first family. Soon, his second wife, Ella, and her sister (Lesley Nicol) arrive in Pakistan. Ella chides Jahangir for spending all their savings on building the house for the first wife. Sajid also refuses to go back to England with Ella. After momentary calm, tempers start to rise. What happens next? Is Jahangir able to make peace with both his wives who are unhappy with the situation he has landed all of them in? What about Maneer’s marriage and Sajid’s Pakistani connection? The rest of the film answers these questions.
West Is West Review – Script Analysis
The film’s screenplay, penned by Ayub Khan-Din, gives ample scope for dramatic confrontations between Janangir, Ella and Basheera. Well-written and enacted, such moments are aplenty but they make the film a rather serious one. As a majority of the Indian audience will sympathise, but not identify with the peculiar conundrum of the film’s protagonists, the drama is no tear-jerker. Light moments and wry comedy, which were the hallmarks of the prequel, East Is East, are few and far in between.
Having said that, it must be added that Sajid’s track, and his heartwarming interactions with the pir and Eyaz, do present a contrast to the serious drama. The climax is also very well-written and will bring a smile to the viewers’ faces. Dialogues are interesting. The confrontation scene between the two wives who don’t understand each other’s language, is a highlight.
West Is West Review – Star Performances & Direction
Aqib Khan’s natural performance is the highlight of the film. Om Puri is very good, as usual. Linda Bassett and Ila Arun perform with panache. Emil Marwa, Kamal Arora, Vijay Raaz (as Tanvir), Sheeba Chaddha (as Rehana Khan), Lesley Nicol (as auntie Annie) and Jimi Mistry (as Tariq Khan) support well. Nadim Sawalha (as Pir) is outstanding.
Andy DeEmmony’s direction is very good. Robert Lane’s background score is sublime. It sets the mood of the film. One song (composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) is okay. Peter Robertson’s cinematography is appropriate. Editing, by Jon Gregory and Stephen O’Connell, is okay.
West Is West Review – Verdict
On the whole, West Is West is a well-told story but it faces limited prospects at the Indian box-office.