Saturday, 5 March 2011

Film #24 West Is West

I'm sure this caught a lot of people by surprise - twelve years on from the original East is East we get the sequel, the inevitably-entitled West is West. Beginning in 1970s Salford - and picking up a four years after East is East - the youngest of George and Ella Khan's boys, Sajid (Aqib Khan) is going off the rails and rejecting his father's Pakistani heritage. To set him back on the straight and narrow, George (Om Puri) takes Sajid along with him on a trip to Pakistan, ostensibly to find a wife for Sajid's traditionally-minded brother Maneer (Emil Marwa) who is living with George's Pakistani family in the Punjab. However, as George confronts his first wife, Basheera (Ila Arun), long-buried conflicts re-emerge and identities are questioned.

Good points - Om Puri cannot put in a bad performance (and the acting all-round is generally fine), the Punjab (actually India) is beautifully photographed, there are a few decent laughs to be had and the story sort-of manages to hold together under the weight of the writer's wish to work fairly strenuously on 'themes'

Bad points - well, for (presumably) a comedy it veers uncomfortably away from its genre at times; just as the first film went off the rails when the domestic violence started, so the laughter stops here as the scale of the misery wreaked by George becomes clear (and, oddly, we seem to be asked to sympathise with him toward the end, as there is a kind of spurious reconciliation). There is unevenness elsewhere too - Sajid's mentoring in Pakistan by a wise Sufi mystic seems to buy into the same kind of Orientalist chic that is parodied earlier in the film, in Jimi Mistry's cameo as proprietor of a head shop. Oh, and as with Paul there is too much use of swearing for comic effect.

A well-intentioned, occasionally amusing but ultimately problematic film.