Last night, I sat down to watch the English film West is West (2010).
What drew me to the British production was its predecessor, East is East, which I had watched a few years back to much delight.
Like with most sequels, West is West falls short of the original but it was not a complete disappointment for me.
By the way, you can still watch West is West even if you haven’t seen East is East.
While the older film was based in urban UK of 1971, the follow-on is set for the most part in the Pakistan countryside in 1976.
Bitter for the Ones Left Behind
It’s a familiar story (familiar at least to us) of cultural clashes involving immigrants in a foreign land (UK in this instance).
After an egregious insult from his youngest son Sajid (Aqib Khan) following a nasty incident outside the home, the boy’s father George/Jahangir Khan (Om Puri) takes him to his homeland Pakistan (the film was actually shot in Chandigarh, India) to give him a peek into his culture and roots.
I was pleased with the photography, an oft-ignored aspect in any Indian film.
The rustic landscape – the unelectrified home, the dusty village, the sand storm etc – is realistic and comes alive in the shots.
While some aspects of the story seemed a little trite and the dialogs occasionally strayed into the outright phony, director Andy DeEmmony still managed to hold my interest by integrating George/Jahangir’s long-abandoned Pakistan family into the immigrant angle.
But the acting, photography and the un-Bollywood aspect of the film were more than adequate compensation for any shortcomings.
Far too often an immigrant’s journey for a better life abroad is accompanied by a bitter existence for those left behind at home. And that part comes out well in West is West.
Much praise has been heaped upon British youngster Aqib Khan who plays Sajid Khan.
While Aqib is not a bad actor, I felt Raj Bhansali, the local Pakistani kid Zaid who befriends Sajid, was a far superior, a more natural actor.
Om Puri is usually a class act and he’s true to form in West is West too. One of the few Indian actors (apart from Anupam Kher) with a reputation that transcends India’s borders.
I can’t remember if I’ve seen Ila Arun (who plays George’s abandoned wife Basheera), earlier on the screen but she was impressive in West is West and made me keen to see her other films.