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East Is East

East Is East

By Patrick Samuel • July 14th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Channel Four Films

Original release: November 5th, 1999
Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Damien O’Donnell
Writer: Ayub Khan-Din

Cast: Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jordan Routledge, Archie Panjabi, Raji James, Jimi Mistry, Ian Aspinall

East Is East

When you grow up in a large family, particularly one that’s struggling to make ends meet, there are certain things you never forget. The clamour to the kitchen table at evenings for a meal your mum’s spent hours slaving over, the cramped bedroom you have share with siblings and other relatives, the weekend chores everyone tries to pass off to each other and the booming voice of the patriarchal figure if there’s any upset.

It never took long for someone to step out of line and unfortunately that was usually me. From sneaking pork sausages into the house, to watching films when I should be doing my homework, anything could set off a family quarrel.

There are so many reasons why I’ve always loved East Is East, but mostly it’s because it reminded me of my own family and the some of the ups and downs we had when all lived together from 1988 to 1998.

Set in 1971, the film’s patriarchal figure, Zahir “George” Khan (Om Puri) is very much like my own father was. Despite living in England for a considerable amount of time, he never really adjusted to English life and clung to the traditions from “back home”. With George this is surprising as he married Ella (Linda Bassett), a British Roman Catholic of Irish descent. Together they run a fish and chips shop in Salford and have a litter of children who drive them up the wall.

East Is East

East Is East opens with their eldest son, Nazir’s (Ian Aspinall) arranged marriage, but when he’s unable to go through with it, George ends up disowning boy.

This however isn’t the end of his troubles. He also has Tariq (Jimi Mistry), his third son, to deal with. Tariq likes to go out partying and Goerge thinks the only way to force him to grow up and honour Islam is to get him married. The youngest son Sajid (Jordan Routledge) is also a bit of a handful, the parka-wearing kid has to suffer through a circumcision when George finds out he never had it done as a baby.

As George goes about arranging more marriages, Ella strongly disapproves and tries to remind him of what happened with Nazir, but he’s adamant that his children have no right to disagree with him. This leads to much heartache for his children but East Is East is also a film filled with tender and comical situations that are effortlessly true to real life.

One example is when Meenah (Archie Panjabi), Abdul (Raji James) and Tariq are left home alone and have a pork feast even though they know their religion disapproves of it. With only a limited amount of time to relax and binge on the meat before their father returns home, they make the best of it with Ella making sure her husband remains none the wiser.

It reminded of doing things like getting the Christmas decorations up while my father East Is Eastwas asleep (as he disapproved of any kind of celebration), and smoking his cigarettes on the back porch – although this only happened once.

Still, despite his strict rules, and very much like George, he enforced those rules because he wanted the very best for his children, without realising how torn they were between the customs he grew up with and the life they were making for themselves in England.

Ayub Khan-Din’s screenplay brings all of these issues to the surface in a way that feels very real and natural, allowing the actors to give beautiful and memorable performances while also delivering a film that audiences worldwide would be able to relate to and roar with laughter, whatever their background.

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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