Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The sequel to the critically-acclaimed drama East is East, award-winning screenwriter Ayub-Khan Din’s dysfunctional Pakistani Muslim-English based family returns in West is West. Set in 1975, four years after the prequel, George Khan (Om Puri) is still at his authoritative best making sure his family abides to Islamic laws and strict Pakistani traditions. This of course doesn’t go well with his youngest son Sajid Khan (Aqib Khan), who you might remember as the kid who refused to get circumcised in the first film. The teenage Sajid rebels against his parents, was caught stealing things, and after getting constantly bullied in school, George decides to literally take him back to his Pakistani roots to “sort him out.”
Where East is East introduced us to the hardship of an immigrant family trying to make a living while battling to keep traditional and religious values alive amid a racist environment of 70s Salford, North England, West is West takes it to another direction. Instead of instilling his personal values and beliefs by screaming, hitting and abusing his kids, George lets Pakistan do the whipping—in a more humane manner. Though the minor slap behind Sajid’s head still ensues.
George leaves it all behind; Salford, his fish-and-chip shop, and his wife, all to teach his youngest litter a thing or two about the Punjab tradition.
In a way, it might seem that George has relinquished all responsibilities on leading his children to be good Pakistani Muslim kids. Who would blame him after we saw his horrible failure in arranging the marriage of his eldest son Nadir (in East is East), who later declared that he was gay. And the highly memorable endless squabbles and bickering between angry George and his feisty English wife Ella Khan (Linda Bassett) that displayed the friction between differing cultures, traditions and beliefs. All while the family slowly tears apart in the hands of their father.
As much as Pakistan allows the self-discovery and maturity for Sajid, it also opened up the opportunity for George to realize his detrimental behaviour as a parent, understanding the disastrous family dynamic that he has created, and finding out more about the battles with himself.
It is here that George reunites with his first wife and daughters who he abandoned for 35 years. A woman who waited patiently, who over the years ceased to love him, and in one sweeping statement asked, “I begin to realize that we are not your family, but another bank account for which you deposit your money.”
It wasn’t only money that George gave; it is in the choices that he made -intended for a better future—that left a trail of pain and resignation that has accumulated its interest. George begins to realize this, and he has to make an obligatory withdraw on his investment.
The spectrum of dichotomous relationship available in this film is delivered heartedly. The challenges between tradition and modernism, family and individualistic needs, abandonment and discovery, surrender and acceptance, East and West, makes this film a heart-tugging one.
Similar to East is East, West is West marries comedy, drama, and discomfort into one highly engrossing film. The characters are relatable and easily empathized –which includes George who is just trying his best to make things right with all the wrong choices. The swaggering, playful and rebellious Sajid is a gem to watch. Look out for Mrs Khan 1 and 2 partaking in a moving dialogue in two different languages. The supporting casts lend a complimentary hand to an already tight starring cast and are memorable with a brilliant soundtrack to boot. We are looking at West is West bagging some BAFTA awards as much as its prequel did.