Same Family, Different Country

Same Family, Different Country

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Icon Film Distribution

Release date: February 25th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
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

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

While I struggled for a long time to adapt to the grey skies of England and the wet winters which lay ahead, I eventually got used to the new lifestyle and it wasn’t long before my homeland became a half-forgotten dream of colourful wedding decorations, food served on coconut leaves and festivals of light. The same could not be said for my parents and older brothers who clung tightly to the old Indian ways, remaining steadfast in their distrust of anything different (English).

West Is West

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 which continue after all these years within my own family.

Set in Manchester, 1976, the story picks up five years after the first film, East Is East, 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 tear-away 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.

West Is West

George, being as understanding as always, decides that the boy’s problems are down to him, not knowing his roots and therefore unable to be a good Muslim. So he packs him off to the Punjab for a month where he can learn to be more like his father. They stay with Mrs. Khan #1, Basheera (Ila Arun) and her children, the family George abandoned 30 years ago. Maneer (Emil Marwa), George’s half English elder son, is also there and trying to find a wife but because he is mixed, he is seen as not good enough for anyone’s daughter there.

West Is West reunites Om Puri, Linda Bassett and writer Ayub Khan-Din for a sequel which comes 11 years after East Is East. 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 picture which stands on its own while continuing the story of a family still trying to find their identity.

West Is West

Although the trip was meant to teach Sajid about his father, George will also learn about himself. For the first time in 30 years he faces Basheera and sees the pain he caused. Eventually he comes to see that he is not that much different from Sajid and that 30 years in England have not made him a better Pakistani, but actually English. This I think is the crux of the film. It’s something I’ve seen very often in families (including my own) who moved here expecting not to be changed.

The two families have a lot to deal with and the way the conflicts are addressed with the screenplay really pulls on your emotions in the best possible ways. There are moments which 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 is the danger that everything they have worked for will be taken away and given to his children.

West Is West

The scenes with Basheera and Ella are so beautifully written, acted and filmed that it’s impossible not to be moved by them as the characters, unhindered by the language barrier, express what they feel for George, the man they both love.

Scored by Rob Lane and Shankar Ehsaan Loy, the music they provide 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 inevitable and necessary 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.

Please check back for an exclusive interview with West Is West’s producer Leslee Udwin.

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