Imagine six sons and one daughter living in a small house with a strict father and a laid back mother. The father is a Pakistani immigrant and mother is English. These elements are a part of a great film about culture clash and trying to find your identity in the world around you. It’s time to review East Is East.
The father, George Khan, is played by actor Om Puri. He has married Ella, played by Linda Bassett, his English wife. They own a fish-and-chip shop in Salford, Greater Manchester. It begins with a parade for Christianity going on through the streets of Salford and all of George Khan’s children are marching in the parade. Ella’s friend is with them, Auntie Annie. Ella is walking through the parade looking for her kids while George steps out to see the parade. Ella sees Annie and warns her and the children about George and the children separate from the parade to avoid getting caught. As Ella and George are watching the parade, the kids are running through a back alley making sure they are not seen by their dad.
The eldest son is about to get married, his name is Nazir. Next are Maneer and Abdul, who are more into being religious like their father. Two of the other brothers are art student Saleem and the charming Tariq, who is currently seeing a girl from his neighbourhood named Stella. The youngest is Sajid and the only sister, Meenah, the tomboy. She’s not a fan of tradition at all. Back to Nazir, he’s nervous and in his room with Tariq on the bed. Tariq can clearly see that his brother doesn’t want to get married. It’s an arranged marriage and he would rather choose his own wife. Sajid and Abdul also help him. George comes in to help Nazir with the clothing and Sajid, Tariq and Abdul leave.
George is proud, but Nazir looks uncomfortable with the whole marriage, even when his dad puts a veil on him and shows Ella. The family walks out of the house as Tariq sees Stella and he winks at her. Her granddad disapproves of George’s family. Sajid says hello to Earnest, an English kid he’s friends with. They set off to the wedding venue. Imam turns up to officiate the wedding as the bride, who is also veiled in a red saree walks up the aisle with her parents. They are seated next to each other and the veils are lifted. They look at each other, but Nazir panics as he’s given food. He can’t get married and he runs off, making the bride feel like it is her fault. We then see a sad Ella with an angry looking George. Later in the mosque, the Imam uses George’s real name, Zaheed. George talks about how his life would be better if he moved to a location that has more Pakistani people, but the Imam disagrees. He tells him his children are different, it’s not their fault.
Six months later, Sajid is sitting on the side of the road with Earnest, who is commenting on Meenah’s beauty as she plays football with a group of boys. George, Annie and Ella are working at the chip shop as Tariq and Stella are kissing in the alleyway behind it. Stella’s best friend Peggy turns up as Tariq tells Stella she has to leave. George looks out the shop window and sees Sajid and Meenah playing in the street. They see the mosque van and run off. They don’t want to learn about reading Arabic. They just want to have fun. George goes to his house to drag the kids out to go study religion. Tariq and Saleem look bored while the others are trying. Abdul goes to work, he works in a garage with people who disrespect his culture and his boss encourages him to drink beer while his coworkers object to this kind of treatment. George finds out that Sajid is uncircumcised so they take him to get it “fixed.” Sajid hides in a small hut in the garden and George unsuccessfully tries to get him to come out. Saleem, Tariq and Meenah are sitting in the living room eating bacon and sausages, while Maneer is spraying an aerosol to get rid of the smell. Meenah answers the door and Earnest is there. She also sees her dad down the road with Sajid in his arms, heading towards the house. The kids scramble to hide the food and spray the air to hide the smell.
Meenah is behind the chip shop and Maneer is slicing cod fish. Meenah dances to a song about how modesty is taken away from the people around her. She’s having fun, but a deeper meaning is there too. Tariq and Saleem are having a smoke while watching her dance away. Ella is looking after Sajid and Annie walks in, they have a chat about religion. George is back in the mosque with the Imam, who mentions there is a Mr. Shah. He’s looking for two men to marry his daughters. The family is getting ready to go to Bradford for a trip. They all jump into a small van and are seen driving through the English countryside, which is full of lakes and even has a castle. It’s beautiful and picturesque. The sign for Bradford has been vandalized to say something else; it always makes me laugh when I see it. It’s the nickname Bradford has been given due to the high population of Pakistani/Indian people who immigrated there. George comments on how happy everyone is, but Ella doesn’t want to relocate.
They go to someone’s house and the men and women are separated. The men are all talking about politics, though the boys in the room appear bored. George meets Mr. Shah and discusses arranged marriages. Ella, Meenah and Helen, a wife of George’s friend, are sitting in the living room. Helen breaks down as Ella comforts her. Mr. Shah talks to George about being blessed with six sons, but George corrects him about having five sons. A picture is being passed around of the daughters who Mr. Shah is trying to arrange marriages for. George’s smile disappears, but he still tries to smile because Mr. Shah looking for a positive response. There’s an awkward pause as George smiles. The Imam tells Mr. Shah that they’ve agreed that Abdul will marry Nushaaba and Tariq will marry Nigget.
Later, they go to the cinema to see a hindi film. George is friends with the owner so they get special treatment. Later on Tariq and Abdul go to a club using English names to get in. Tariq is dancing with various women while Abdul looks awkward. Peggy and Stella arrive at the club. Stella sees Tariq and becomes jealous. George and Ella talk about arranged marriage and Ella mentions that she doesn’t want to go through the pain of losing her sons again. George disagrees with Ella as she takes the kids to a phone box to talk to Nazir, the eldest son that left. All she cares about is her son’s happiness. The kids are having fun with each other as Sajid spills a secret that Tariq and Abdul are to be wed. Tariq finds the wedding clothes and gets angry that he had no say in the matter. Maneer tries to clean up the mess, but George blames him. George takes him to Ella in the shop and he gets violent.
They have a serious argument about their marriage and she stands up for her kids. He hurts her; it’s disturbing to watch at this point and is an intense scene. There’s a scene showing where Nazir is now because Tariq goes to see him with Saleem and Meenah. Nazir tries to go back to help his mum, but even though she is happy to see him she tells him to leave. Tariq talks to George to tell him that he identifies as English and wants to choose his own spouse. George threatens him with violence and Tariq points out George’s contradictory behavior.
The climactic final act is brilliant with Mr. Shah and his daughters coming to visit. Saleem makes an art piece inspired by human female anatomy, which lands on the lap of one of the guests. Annie even pops by to make a sarcastic concerning Abdul and Tariq. Ella stands up to Mr. Shah’s wife, who insults her kids. Linda Bassett does an incredible job with this role. Ella then throws all of the guests out of the house. The kids defend their mum against their father and George storms out. Ella has a go at her kids about their attitudes too. George is in the chip shop and Ella comes in to open up. They make amends as the kids are running around again, picking on each other for fun.
The film has some strong themes about family and the children trying to find a way to fit in knowing that they’re mixed race. Everyone in the film does a fantastic job in their portrayal of the characters. The siblings annoy each other, but it’s funny to watch and quite entertaining.
Thank you for reading, you can find me on Twitter with the handle @immiebroods if you want to discuss the film and what you thought of it.