West is West
Eleven years after the hugely loved East is East, Ayub Khan-Din continues the story of Khan family and their tussle with life in-between two worlds.


25 February 2011

See comments (
Plot summary

Sajid, the youngest Khan has been misbehaving so his father decides to pack him off to Mrs Khan No 1 and her family in the Punjab, the wife and daughters he had abandoned 30 years earlier. Resolved to teach Sajid a lesson, the tables are turned on George as he realises that it is he who has much to learn.

Eleven years after the hugely loved East is East, Ayub Khan-Din continues the story of Khan family and their tussle with life in-between two worlds.

West is West jumps forward four years from the last instalment to 1975, taking a focus on the youngest of the Khans, Sajid (Aquib Khan). Despite everything that happened in the last film Sajid is finding that, growing into a teen, he is beginning to face similar problems with his life as a British-Pakistani living in Salford. With an English mother and a broad Lancashire accent, Sajid feels more British than Pakistani. This, however, doesn’t’ stop the kids at school seeing him differently. His head is frequently shoved down the loo and due to his subsequent attempts to flee he is often subject to the pompous, old school, imperial faux-profundity of his headmaster’s speeches. His headmaster is even kind enough to bestow a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim on him. Never nice.

After getting caught shoplifting after a particularly bad day, Sajid lets his resentment for his Pakistani upbringing brim to surface and calls his Father George (Om Puri) the kind of term normally reserved for him by the bullies at school. Realising something drastic must be done, George takes Sajid out to Pakistan to the home where he left the first Mrs. Khan and his first family.

Aquib Khan, playing his first role in a film, is a great choice for Sajid. He’s got huge charm as the lovable little shit, in a similar sort of way to Jamie Bell’s Billy Elliot. – you know, in a not-sure-if-I-want-to-punch-him-or-pat-him-on-the-head kind of way. Case in point, when arriving in Pakistan he reluctantly greets an old woman he assumes to be a relative, only to find out, through the giggling of his real relatives, that she is a beggar woman. Pat. Getting into a car he then notices a boy who, after giving him a pleasant nod, gets an angry, but beautifully executed, two-finger salute. Punch. Brilliant.

From the moment he lands Sajid is battling his resentment of being in Pakistan and his integration within the family. It is some time before he, like his brother Maneer (Emil Marwa) who has been in the country for the passed year, sheds his western snobbery both physically (he eventually takes off his shirt, tie and jacket and adorns a more traditional shalwar-kammez) and mentally. Through the help and advice of a wise old family friend he gets a little perspective on life and comes to respect the side of his life he had given little time before.

His father’s attempts to resolve issues with his first wife are a teensy bit marred by the arrival of his English Wife Ella (Linda Bassett) and her best friend Auntie Annie (the hilarious Lesley Nicol). Cue hilarious cultural faux pas and a clash between the two mothers that leaves George reeling. George’s threats of sending for Mrs Khan number 1 in East is East have backfired a tad.

It is the two mothers that actually end up having the film’s most touching moment; a brilliant scene in which the two ladies bare their souls to each other despite not understanding a word the other is saying.

And ultimately, I think this is where West is West succeeds. It encompasses, more so than East is East, so many different sides to this multicultural family, as lacking in original members as it is. Each member has a different issue they are dealing with: Sajid is learning to accept and love his Pakistani roots; George is dealing with a despondent and apathetic son and the impact of his past and present, his west and east, catching up with each other; Ella decides it’s time to confront the problem of George’s other family that has been niggling at her mind for years; Mrs Khan no. 1, now involved, has a score to settle also…

And then there’s Maneer, the religious son who, in embracing life in Pakistan early on, is now desperate for a wife. His journey helps bring the film together towards the end – a kind of heart-warming rounding off point for the film’s multiple character arcs.

In East is East the problem was more focused: family versus father. In West, although George is a centre point, everyone has his or her own problems. The situation is bit more complicated this time round.

West is West continues a well-loved family’s story but adds a whole other dimension to it by taking it out of England. It’s as heart-warming and funny as its predecessor and works as a film in its own right and as a part of – yep, you guessed it – a trilogy. So what’s the next one? East is West? West is… East? The possibilities are, er… several.