East Meets West
It's 1976 and Sajid (Aqib Khan) is the last of George's (Om Puri - My Son the Fanatic) sons living at home and he is struggling with being half Pakistani as he is bullied at school and resents his father because he is always so proud. But George is desperate not to let Sajid deny who he is and convinces Ella (Linda Bassett - Calendar Girls) to let him take Sajid to Pakistan for a month so that the boy can learn about his heritage and the traditions. Unfortunately for George that not only means having to face the wife and daughters he abandoned 30 years earlier but also the realisation that living in England for 30 years has changed him and changed people's feelings towards him. To make matters worse when George decides they are going to stay there a bit longer it forces Ella to come out to find out what the hell George is up to.
Eleven years after the hilarious yet touching "East Is East" we got the sequel "West Is West" and it was a sequel which before watching I couldn't see the point of. I just couldn't see where they could take the story without just repeating the first movie and in doing so being weak; thankfully I was wrong. "West Is West" cleverly captures aspects of "East Is East" such as Sajid resentment of his father and George's desire for his last remaining son not to grow up English but it evolves this with more coming of age drama for Sajid but also more drama for George as he realises he is not the man he thought he was. It means that "West Is West" is still hilarious but still touching, maybe not quite as good as "East Is East" but still so much fun.
So in effect "West Is West" is two stories of coming of age starting with young Sajid who having ditched the fur collared coat resents his father because he is bullied for being half Pakistani and is treated differently by his headmaster. It is comical yet powerful as Sajid basically rips into his father spewing out the racist remarks he will have been called himself. But then we watch Sajid's transformation as he arrives in Pakistan not wanting to be there, abusive and not understanding the culture to someone who comes to appreciate things more including a friendship he makes whilst there. It is all wonderfully comical from Sajid being full of attitude to Nadim Sawalha comical mentoring as Pir Naseem, cleverly getting him interested in the traditions.
But there is also another coming of age story in "West Is West" although a story of realisation is probably a better term because we have George's return home. What we watch is George, the proud father in Salford who dictates how they live humbled by his return to Pakistan and the realisation that he is not the big I am he thinks he is. It is touching to watch George mellow because whilst comical he is abusive when the movie starts yet watching Om Puri as George take the character on a journey where he discovers that back home people have a lower opinion of him and that being in England has changed him is quite brilliant. There is still the comedy with the wonderful Linda Bassett as Ella and Lesley Nicol as Aunt Annie showing up but the transition in George is quite brilliant.
Now that makes "West Is West" a nicely evolved movie but still capturing elements of what made "East is East" so much fun. And what it certainly gets right is the collection of characters from the amusement of all the cousins waiting at the airport for George and Sajid's arrival to Emil Marwa as Maneer who is looking for a wife, which gives us what is the most fun performance in the movie from Zita Sattar as the Nana Mouskouri looking Neelam.
What this all boils down to is that "West Is West" is not quite as good as "East Is East" but it is still a good sequel which nicely evolves the story so whilst we still have coming of age amusement we also have some touching drama revolving around Om Puri as George Khan.