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West Is West

West Is West

By Patrick Samuel • July 14th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Icon Film Distribution

Original release: February 25th 2011
Running time: 102 minutes

Director: Andy De Emmony
Writer: Ayub Khan-Din

Cast: Aqib Khan, Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Ila Arun, Emil Marwa, Jimi Mistry

West Is West

I was 9 years old when my parents brought me to the UK in 1988, leaving behind aunts, uncles, cousins… everyone and everything that tied me to my West Indian roots.

While I struggled for a long time to adapt to the grey skies of England and the wet winters that lay ahead, I eventually got used to the new lifestyle and it wasn’t long before my homeland became a half-forgotten dream. The same could not be said for my father who clung tightly to the old ways and refused to integrate with English life.

I think this is why the story of West Is West resonated so well with me. I looked at it and saw the same struggles that continued for so long within my own family.

Set in Manchester, 1976, the story picks up five years after the first film, East Is East (1999), with the Khan family a little smaller than before, after the older kids have left home. The youngest, Sajid (Aqib Khan) is now 13 and finally rid of his Parker hoodie, but he’s a tearaway teenager constantly getting in trouble at school because of racist bullies and causing grief for his parents, Ella (Linda Bassett) and George “Ghengis” Khan (Om Puri), by skipping classes and getting caught shoplifting.

George, being as understanding as ever, decides the boy’s problems are down to him not knowing his roots and therefore unable to be a good Muslim. He packs him off to the Punjab for a month where he can learn to be more like his father. They stay with George’s first wife Basheera (Ila Arun) and her children – the family George abandoned 30 years ago when he went to live in England.

West Is West

Maneer (Emil Marwa), George’s half English elder son, is also there and trying to find a wife but because he’s mixed, he’s seen as not good enough for anyone’s daughter there.

Despite a lot of the kids from the first film being absent, the role of Sajid re-cast and a new director coming on board, it’s really a brilliant film which stands on its own while continuing the story of a family still trying to find their identity.

Although the trip was meant to teach Sajid about his father, George also learns about himself. For the first time in 30 years he faces Basheera and sees the pain he’s caused her. Eventually he realises he’s not that different from Sajid and that 30 years in England haven’t made him a better Pakistani, but actually English. It’s something I’ve seen in my own family who moved here expecting not to be changed.

Even though this sequel comes over a decade after East Is East, Ayub Khan-Din brought together something so deeply moving and universal that it doesn’t matter West Is Westwhere you’re from or who you are because we all recognise the patriarchal figure of George “Ghengis” Khan (Om Puri) and we can empathise on many levels with the family.

There are moments that are incredibly funny and very touching, like when Sajid makes his first friend, a young goat herder, Zaid. Ultimately what I felt most affected by was Ila Arun’s performance as Basheera. The abandoned wife and lonely mother, Basheera looks after her daughters and manages the farm with her future son-in-law, but when George and his other family arrive, there’s the danger that everything they’ve worked for will be taken away and given to his children.

The scenes with Basheera and Ella are so beautifully captured. It’s hard not to be West Is Westmoved by them as the characters, unhindered by the language barrier, express what they feel for George, this wretched man they both love.

Scored by Rob Lane and Shankar Ehsaan Loy, the music adds a rich texture to the film that’s already bursting with vivid colours and energy. You can almost smell the spices and flavour of the food with the cinematography too as West Is West moves towards the celebration of Maneer’s wedding. It makes me long for “home” and a film like this reminds me why it’s harder for my elders to let go of it.

I can’t promise it will be the same for you but I can tell you that it’s a story with amazing performances and it’s what a sequel should be about; not just relying on the story that came before, but taking it to different places physically, emotionally and spiritually to tell something new about the characters.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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