Om Puri stars as George Khan, the owner of a fish and chips store. He is married to Ella (Linda Bassett) and has 7 kids (one girl, 6 boys). Even though they live in England, George tries to instill Pakistani values into thei lives. What this basically means is, they do whatever he says, no questions asked. For the most part, it's more annoying than anything else. Wearing a sari on important occassions, majoring in engineering, things like that. But when George tries to marry off his eldest son Nazir, things start to tumble. Nazir's marriage is arranged, so that he doesn't even get to see his wife until a few seconds before they become married. Nazir bolts from the ceremony, and is immediately written off as dead by his father. Things seem to go along well for the rest of the clan, until George arranges to have two more of his sons, Tariq and Abdul, get married. Then the family explodes, leaving Ella, caught in the middle between her love for her children and her love for her husband, to try and hold the family together.
What you have here is what many would consider a typical Pakistani (or Indian) father. Set in his ways, pushing his kids to do what he thinks is best, not listening to them or his wife, basically being lord of the manor. The difference is that these kids were not raised in Pakistan. They were raised in England, where the rules of life are different. Even on their own street the family is seen as being outsiders. The kids realize this more than their father, and they've adapted to life in England. When Tariq and Abdul sneak out one night for a night of disco dancing (remember, this movie takes place in the early 70's), Tariq is referred to by the bouncer as "Tony". Living as "brown" folks in an otherwise white world is hard enough for these kids, but when their father tries to force them to live as he did, they rebel. Ella is the person caught in the middle. She loves her husband, but also understands the kids and how they need to live their lives. The story turns violent when she finally confronts George about the way he deals with the kids, and he lashes out at her, both mentally and physically. In the end things seem to get back to normal, with both parents and children coming to an understanding about what the other thinks.
I suppose I'm lucky in a way. My parents never pushed me to do anything I didn't want to do, and still don't. So I never had to go through what these kids did. But while the movie has serious tones, it was one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. There is a scene with Saleem's art project near the end of the film that will have you rolling in the aisles. And the rest of the movie treats the serious themes with humour and understanding. I also think if you come from a South Asian background, you'll appreciate what happens a lot more, but at the same time if you don't, the universal theme of parents vs. children still come out. I like this movie because it shows that you can take a story that many people know, tweak it a little bit and give it a South Asian flavor, and still have all sorts of people go see it and laugh along with you. Which bodes well for my future as the film I'm helping to produce follows along the same lines (see: ABCD Productions).
So overall I thought East is East was a very funny movie. It has some serious story lines but treats them with heart and laughter. I think this is easily the best movie I've seen so far this year.
Click on the links for more information on South Asia, Marriage, or Fatherhood.
My Son the Fanatic
$22.49 on DVD
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)
Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament (Book 4)
All from from Amazon.com
The Iron Giant
Only $17.49 on DVD
© 2000 Wolfpack Productions