Urban Cinefile
"Working with him was heaven.just heaven. We share the same sense of humour - very blue! "  -Judi Dench on Billy Connolly
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday September 16, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Pakistani immigrant George Khan (Om Puri) lives in Salford, Lancashire with his English wife Ella (Linda Bassett), and their seven children. George owns the local fish and chip shop and his strict Muslim ways dictate adherence to rituals including arranged marriage. When eldest son Nazir (Ian Aspinall) leaves his pre-ordained bride-to-be at the altar, George cuts him off for life. Worse is to follow as his other children start flouting the conventions of Islam and challenging their father's rigid authority. A crisis develops which will have a profound impact on each member of the Khan family.

"Big laughs, poignant drama and a standout performance by Om Puri as a patriarch on the verge of a cultural breakdown are the winning elements of East Is East. A crowd-pleaser with something to say, this adaptation of Ayub Khan-Din's stage hit is populated with vivid characters and a perceptive screenplay (also by Khan-Din) which looks at the cross cultural conflicts from everyone's perspective. Scenes of the naughty Khan children eating pork, rejecting Allah in favour of Christianity and sneaking out to discos are played with humour and a keen understanding of the dilemmas facing these kids struggling with their identity in working class England thirty years ago. As the tone shifts to darker territory we understand the motivations of this clan - especially fraught father George around whom the conflict revolves. Without such delicate handling and Puri's presence George might have emerged as an unsympathetic monster. Rather he comes off as a man thrown hopelessly off balance by events he can't comprehend. His outbursts of anger and violence are the pathetic manifestations of a strong man made weak by the loss of his own identity and the only way of life he knows. Puri rises to the occassion with a performance of such depth and emotion we never completely lose sympathy for him. There's much to enjoy in this family snapshot set in an era before terms such as equal opprtunity and multiculturalism were part of the lexicon."
Richard Kuipers

"Racism, prejudice and other social issues endemic to England's Indian-Pakistani community were first brought to moviegoer's attention back in the eighties with two Stephen Frears dramas: the luminous My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and Sammy And Rosie Get Laid (1987). As written by Hanif Kureishi, both films sought to subvert the Asian's customary role as the perpetual victim by characterising him as either a promiscuous gadfly or a wily, rapacious opportunist. In East Is East, adapted from the London stage by writer Ayub Khan Din, the focus shifts back to address a more universal problem bedeviling the hapless immigrant: cultural dislocation. As past films will readily testify, it's not exactly the most compelling of themes, but there is much to like and admire what Din and director Damien O'Donnell have done with it here. Din, a one-time actor who appeared in the aforementioned Sammy And Rosie, is himself a product of Salford's ethnic melting pot, so it's hardly surprising that his story and its many anecdotal asides (both funny and sad) are grounded in the kind of veracity only an eyewitness could provide. As the gruff family patriarch determined to impose upon his kids the same restrictive homeland customs and traditions that he himself rejected some thirty years earlier, veteran Indian actor Om Puri weighs in with a commanding performance entirely befitting his pivotal role. Not to be outdone, Linda Bassett's Ella is a model of quiet resolve and determination, and there is talent to spare in the lesser-known but well cast faces that fill out the important supporting roles. An affecting, insightful tale of the immigrant experience highlighting issues which are probably just as pertinent today as they were back in 1971."
Leo Cameron

"Damien O'Donnell's East is East is a good little comedy which provides us with a solid study of what it is to grow up in a culture within a culture. This is not the easiest of assignments and there are moments when he is less than successful. At times the action is hugely predictable, making it seem a little slow. At other times we can see where he's aiming with the humour, but it may be a matter of close familiarity with the (English) world of the characters in order to be fully touched. That said, there is a number of touch points for the Australian community with the increasing growth in our own Muslim population and the corresponding difficulties for the second generation. Writer Ayub Khan-Dib has adapted his play to the screen reasonably successfully, though his reliance on such devices as peeing (OK, a personal pet peeve of mine) and a Great Dane's desire to become intimate with humans seem more to do with having fun with the possibilities provided by the new medium than actually furthering the story or the comedy. Still, this is an entertaining and thought provoking piece. As is so often the case in British films, the actors shine. Om Puri provides us with a strong turn as the father torn between the old and the new. He simply doesn't understand and is unable to adapt his thinking to the world around him. The support is excellent throughout, from young Jordan Routledge as the fun loving youngster who faces circumcision to Linda Bassett as George's long suffering wife. It's worth a look but the quirky storytelling doesn't completely fit the difficult subject matter."
Lee Gough

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1



CAST: Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jordan Routledge, Archie Panjabi, Emil Marwa, Chris Bisson, Jimi Mistry, Raji James, Ian Aspinall

PRODUCERS: Leslee Udwin

DIRECTOR: Damien O'Donnell

SCRIPT: Ayub Khan-Din


EDITOR: Michael Parker

MUSIC: Deborah Mollinson



AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International


VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: February 28, 2001

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019