Thursday, 16 June 2011

West is West - DVD review

The long anticipated and hoped for sequel of the 1999 box office success 'East is East' is released by Icon Home Entertainment on 20th June.

The film with the wish of Aybu Khan-Din is written not so much as a sequel but as a stand-alone film in its own right, and for the most part it proves a successful follow-up to the film that won a Bafta for Outstanding British Film.  The cast return en masse (although Jimi Mistry fans will feel slightly short changed).

The original film was ground breaking in that it brought subject matter previously unheralded to the big screen; inter-racial marriage set against the backdrop of 1970s working class Salford,Manchester with all its contexts of class and social status.  The idea of a white woman marrying a Pakistani and the hatred that such things may incite were addressed, but the violence is reserved for the cold hand of George Khan (Om Puri) who beats up his wife in the back office of their chip shop.  Whilst played and marketed for laughs, the original did have its darker moments.

'West is West' focuses on Sajid (Aqib Khan - in his first role), the youngest son, who is rebellious playing truant from school and avoiding bullies who berate him as a 'Paki' thus causing worries about his identiy and reluctance to accept his mixed heritage and hating his father.  The need for discipline and restraint in the young tearaway leads George to take him to his homeland in Pakistan to the family home he abandoned 30 years previously to marry Ella (Linda Bassett).

Mostly played for laughs, but asking genuine questions about identity and belonging not just to your race but your family home; the film has these major questions but has a lovely parallel narrative surrounding Nemar (the middle son) and his quest for a wife. This narrative garners the most laughs as the bride he chooses proves to be more than meets the eye.  Sajid and George's narrative journeys are directed with a humility and subtlety which is with thanks to the direction of Andy de Emmony, who has a long track record in television drama, and this comes to the fore in his feature length debut effort.

Beautifully shot by Peter Robinson, again making Pakistan (though the film was shot in Indian Punjab for insurance purposes) look as beautiful as Chris Menges did for 'Slumdog' and it is this debt to that Oscar winning film that gives this film not a rose-tinted view of the world, but a serious enough tone to go in balance with the humour that comes from Sajid's escapades as a hermit attempts to teach him lessons about life by stating the obvious and making the youngster discover it for himself.

Great performances by all concerned, most notably Aqid Khan who with no training instills Sajid with a bit of Malcolm McDowell mixed with Alex Turner, giving poetry to such profanity he sometimes spouts and Ila Arun, as Basheera Khan, the first wife who shows the vulnerability of her husband's abandonment in her aged face; though talking only Punjab she instills the character with such grandeur and poise it is striking and the scene with her and the second Mrs. Khan are startling.

Khan-Din (and the producer, Leslie Unwin) gets the wish of having the film stand on its own, and though it might not garner the same box office and clamour as its predecessor did it still deserves credit for being a work of supreme technical accomplishment and maturity. A straight drama with comedic appeal in this day and age of hook and gimmicks.

There may be a third film to complete the trifecta, possibly following Sajid's attempts to get married himself - maybe this will be played for laughs; but as long as this cast remains the same, there remains the key to its ever growing appeal.

Distributed by Icon Home Productions this Monday for £17.99RRP on both DVD and Blu-Ray

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