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West is West sets IFFI sailing

The British comedy drama, West is West, set the Festival rolling. Andy DeEmmony’s-Om Puri starrer, West is West is a sequel to the highly successful 1999, East is East.

bollywood Updated: Nov 23, 2010 13:01 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

The Union Railway Minister, Mamta Banerjee, inaugurated the 41st edition of the International Film Festival of India here last evening. In an otherwise seemingly somber function, she set an extremely humorous note, and had the audiences in splits with her sometimes snide, sometimes caustic, sometimes witty remarks, so typical of Banerjee. She was happy, though, that the Festival gave a splendid opportunity to Indian cinema to rub shoulders and compete with the best of world cinema. Yes, she was an ardent lover of movies, especially those of Raj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar and Satyajit Ray among others.

In what appeared like a continuance of this light note, a British comedy drama, West is West, set the Festival rolling. Andy DeEmmony’s-Om Puri starrer, West is West is a sequel to the highly successful 1999, East is East.

The story written by Ayub Khan-Din is set in England in 1976. Father George Khan (Om Puri) is worried that his
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
youngest son, Sajid Khan (Aquib Khan), is too British and looks down upon anything Pakistani, where the family hails from. Based on the writer’s own life as a young man in the 1970s Salford, with Sajid being his alter ego, "West is West" is certainly not as engaging as the first work.

When Sajid plays truant in school and begins to shoplift, getting caught eventually, the father decides that enough is enough and takes off with him to his homeland, Pakistan. There he is forced to meet his wife and daughter he had not seen for 30 years, having neglected them for a British woman, Ella (Linda Basset) he married, to start a completely different kind of life in England.

Often, the movie turns into a farce, especially when it reaches Pakistan. It is only when it settles down at an emotional level that it attains a certain depth. The turn comes with engaging force when Sajid makes new friends in Pakistan, and Ella comes knocking for a confrontation. Khan has to make a difficult choice.

Contributing significantly to the film’s elevation is Ila Arun, who plays Khan’s first wife. However, Puri seems tired, a bit jaded, having had to essay similar roles over and over again.

Puri could not be here, busy as he was shooting in Germany, but the Festival’s opening night did mark the presence of celebrities like Ajay Devgn, Raima Sen, Revathy (who is on the international jury) and Israeli director, Dan Wolman among others.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering IFFI for a quarter century)