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East Is East

Promotional Poster
Directed by Damien O'Donnell
Written by Ayub Khan-Din
Starring Om Puri
Linda Bassett
Jordan Routledge
Archie Panjabi
Music by Deborah Mollison
Distributed by Channel 4 Films
Release date(s) 5 November 1999 (1999-11-05)
Running time 97 minuites
Country United Kingdom
Language English/Urdu/Hindi
Budget £1.9m
Followed by West is West

East Is East is a 1999 British comedy-drama film. It is set in a British household of mixed-ethnicity, with a Pakistani father and an English mother in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 1971. George Khan (played by Om Puri), the father, expects his family to follow his strict Pakistani ways but his children who were born and grown up in Britain increasingly see themselves as British and reject their father's rules on dress, food, religion, and living in general.

East Is East is based on the play of the same name by Ayub Khan-Din. It was directed by Damien O'Donnell. A sequel, West is West is in development; Om Puri, Linda Bassett and Jimi Mistry will reprise their roles.[1]

Contents

Synopsis

George Khan a Pakistani immigrant who has lived in England since 1937 and has been married to Ella, a British woman with an Irish-Catholic background, for 25 years, and has seven children with her - Nazir, Tariq, Abdul, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah and Sajid. The couple runs a popular chippy. The film starts with an arranged marriage of the eldest son to an intentionally attractive Pakistani girl. The son, Nazir, finds himself unable to go through with the marriage. He runs out at the start of the ceremony in front of all the family and guests much to the chagrin of his father and distress of his mother. The perceived shame that this brings on the family results in George disowning his son, telling people who ask about him that he 'is dead'.

The next crisis to fall on George is the discovery that the youngest son Sajid was accidentally never circumcised as required in Islam. Sajid is promptly brought to hospital to get circumcised. When Ella sees the pain her son has suffered from being circumcised at this age we get the first insight into the conflict between her clear love of her husband and her inability to stand up to him. Left alone, the other children make bacon and sausages something again forbidden by Islam law to not eat pork. When Meenah sees that her parents are coming back with Sajid she warns the others and they try to hide the evidence. Ella comes into the kitchen and smells it and keeps George away just long enough for them to get rid of everything.

Meanwhile, marriage is still on George's mind, and he accepts an introduction to Mr. Shah, who is looking for good Pakistani bridegrooms for his two comically unattractive daughters. Despite having seen the daughters' photographs, George promises Mr. Shah that his second and third sons, Tariq and Abdul, will marry them. Sajid accidentally overhears George's plans and reveals them to the other brothers when he is pressured by Meenah, Tariq and Saleem.

The arranged marriages infuriates Tariq. He ceremoniously destroys the clothes and watches that his father traditionally buys for all his sons' weddings. When George later sees the desecrated items he attacks and beats the wrong son for refusing to tell him the culprit. Ella stands in between the two. This is the first time she has stood up to him. She tells him that George's pig ignorance has caused the alienation of his children, the reason that they are so much 'trouble' to him. George only hears this as Ella calling him a pig, a terrible insult to a Muslim. His uncontrollable rage turns on her and he beats her badly. In response, the children attempt to flee to their brother, Nazir, in Eccles who, as it turns out, is gay. Nazir drives back to Manchester to sort it out but leaves after his mother begs him to go as his father will go mad. Nazir, desperate not to see his mother hurt only leaves after she begs him saying that she can always come to him if she needs to.

George sees his world around him collapsing and resorts to draconian measures. He is losing the control and respect of his family whom he is trying, with his best intentions, to bring up in an Islamic way, a tradition he sees as the only choice, where all are equal, a 'special community' which he expects his children to continue. They see themselves as British, not Pakistani and they get increasingly frustrated with their father's attempt to mould them in his image.

The final showdown between George and his family occurs during the meeting where both families discuss the arranged marriages. Ella knows she has brought up her children well. The potential parents-in-law make constant subtle attacks on her and her way of life. There is uncomfortable tension in the room between all parties. A comedic plot piece in the story causes grave offence to the potential mother-in-law. She directly insults Ella and her sons calling them 'half breeds'. Ella does not take this abuse and unceremoniously ejects them out from her home. As Mr Shah leaves he says to George "Your wife is a disgrace." George attacks Ella once again for this insult on his dignity and to his name but the children stop him. He becomes a broken man. He has lost his position as man of the house.

Despite this, Ella still sees George as her husband, someone she will remain faithful and loyal to till the end. The film ends on George and Ella having a cup of tea together, a very British form of reconciliation. It is presumed that all members of the family will be fine.

The film gives an insight into the integration of ethnic minority communities into working class Britain in the 1970s with the backdrop of Enoch Powell. It deals with the conflict that British born ethnic minority children with a parent who is trying to keep his culture and traditions alive have.

Cast

International exhibition and responses

US poster

In the UK, East Is East was remarkably successful for a low-budget comedy, grossing over £10 million in the UK and the USA after only having a £1.9 million budget. The film also made £12,300,000 in rentals. [2]

In the United States, the distributor, Miramax, used marketing that obscures the presence of South Asian characters: the poster features the face of a blonde woman, with the Asian characters appearing only in small windows.

Awards and nominations

The film won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards. The director, Damien O'Donnell, also received a British Independent Film Awards nomination for the film. [3]

References

External links

Preceded by
Elizabeth
Alexanda Korda Award for Best British Film
1999
Succeeded by
Billy Elliot
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