A sequel to the brilliant and powerful East is East? Would that really work? Strangely enough it actually does. Welcome to my review of the follow up film West is West. Only a handful of characters are used, but the actors make it work in this coming of age film for both Sajid and George.
This film is also set in the 1970’s, 1976 to be exact. Sajid, who is now a little older, walks out of the house with George and Ella. It’s the same miserable looking terraced house in Salford. George is greeting people, though Sajid doesn’t look happy. Sajid is walked to school by his dad, who meets Sajid’s teacher, Mr. Jordan. While at school, Sajid is bullied for the colour of his skin by the English students. He tries leaving school by jumping a wall, but is caught by Mr. Jordan, who takes him to his office to teach him about Pakistan. He tries to be serious and throws a few Urdu words into his sentences, but he comes off as confusing and funny. He talks about the time he was stationed there, presumably in the army.
Sajid, George, Ella and Auntie Annie are in the chip shop reading a letter from Pakistan. It turns out Maneer is in Pakistan and talks about his adventures out there. The next day Sajid sneaks out of school to go see his older brother, Tariq, who currently works in a spiritual shop. He’s just using spirituality to pick up female customers, such a nice guy, and hasn’t changed a bit. Sajid talks to him, but Tariq throws him out. Sajid steals from another store, but is caught and arrested. His parents go to the police station, but Mr. Jordan is there with his really confusing analogies. He’s taken home and George begins hitting him for getting arrested. Sajid believes he is being picked on for the colour of his skin. He storms off as Ella goes to his room to lecture him. Ella goes to George in their bedroom and they have an argument about Sajid disrespecting his culture and how George will show him.
The airplane door opens and we see that George has taken Sajid to Pakistan. The way they leave the plane and go through arrivals really hasn’t changed much, which is why I find the entire scene so comical. There are beggars at the airport as well as the people outside waving to get your attention to help you move your luggage. Sajid still looks sad as George looks delighted to be in Pakistan. A cousin greets them and they begin driving through the streets. Sajid is looking outside at the various shops and cows that are just roaming around. I can tell you this much, they still look exactly the same, apart from the big cities. Those have improved, but not as much as I would think.
As it’s mentioned in the first film, Ella is George’s second wife. His first wife, whom he has neglected, lives in Pakistan. In the car, Tanvir is talking to Sajid. He talks about how he worked in England for a year before heading back to Pakistan. Tanvir is married to one of George’s daughters with his first wife. He tries to explain the others in the car to Sajid, but it leaves him more confused. Sajid falls asleep as the car drives through the rural areas where there is more sunshine, as well as fields, mud huts and cows. They have stopped for a bit and the men make tea. Sajid is leaning against the car drinking a bottle of Coke. He sees a shepherd herding camels; he looks surprised having never seen a camel before.
They continue driving and while the others are singing to the music in the car, Sajid looks out to see a crashed truck with grieving widows crying at covered up bodies. It’s subtle yet feels uneasy. A youngster by the side of the road notices Sajid, but Sajid flips him off as the car drives past. They get to the house as a cow sticks its head in the window to ‘greet’ Sajid. George’s daughters cry when they see their father. His first wife is also surprised that he actually turned up, but greets him with respect. While George is giving out the strangest of presents, Sajid is seated next to Maneer. Maneer is in a bedroom with Sajid and asking about his Nana Mouskouri tapes. Maneer has a type, dark haired women with glasses. George reveals that his intention of staying is to find a wife for Maneer. There’s an awkward scene at night about where the bathroom is, yes, it’s in a field. I can confirm that when I was younger and went there, I was handed a trowel and a lantern. I shan’t say anymore, do the detective work on your own time.
The next day, Sajid, George, Maneer and Tanvir go out of the village. Sajid looks for a place to, let’s just say, relieve himself. Two people walk past, Pir Naseem and the youngster that Sajid flipped off from earlier. George goes to a school to give the headmaster a gift and Sajid joins them. George has tricked Sajid into going to school while he’s on holiday, he storms off as the kid from earlier, Zaid, goes after Sajid. They form a friendship after finding some old graves and exchanging the language they know about each other. George goes to see an old friend about a marriage between Maneer and his friend’s daughter. He is refused because of his life in England. This way of life is different to how his friend wants his daughter treated.
George goes to Maneer’s room and tries to blame him for the marriage rejection, but Maneer stands up to his dad. It’s a great scene. While Sajid and Zaid are talking, Sajid wants to find a wife for Maneer instead. It gets spiritual from here with Pir Naseem, who teaches Sajid about Sufism and philosophy. He takes him to an historical site where he goes inside to roam around and tries to understand what he sees. Pir Naseem’s analogies make more sense and manage to make Sajid smile more. George’s first family doesn’t understand why he has returned and they continue to treat him poorly. George renovates the house and tries field work, only to fail poorly. Sajid is taken to a tailor by Pir Naseem who teaches him more.
George realises that he has a family back in England and is more appreciated there. Ella and Auntie Annie turn up too. Pir Naseem teaches Sajid “What needs changing? The boy? Or the world around him?” This is where his mood completely changes and he helps Maneer find a wife and enjoys watching the Sufis get lost in their folk music. Pir Naseem also manages to teach George to be his best self. Sajid sees a woman who looks like Nana Mouskouri, the singer that Maneer likes and catches up with her by crashing a wedding with Zaid. He tries to speak Punjabi to her, but it comes off as really awkward. She replies in English. He’s amazed with that reveal, she’s from Rochdale and she’s really witty. We learn that her name is Neelam.
After yet another fight between George and Ella, she goes into the renovated part of the house and an argument breaks out between George’s two wives. They both have valid arguments on how hard their lives were. A storm rolls in as Ella is in a room with the first wife. It’s a sad scene with Ella, who speaks English, and his first wife who speaks in Punjabi. They try to communicate while a storm is taking place outside and it’s sad yet nice. They earn each other’s respect. Both actresses do a tremendous job with their roles, powerful and moving.
After the storm, George finds Sajid, who ran off before the storm, and they have a heart to heart. They return and Ella looks relieved that her son is safe. Maneer is walking through the town as Sajid signals for Neelam to walk around the corner. Maneer can’t talk as Neelam is chatting away. It’s funny to see because all he sees is his favourite singer. Maneer walks off all awkward and Sajid ends the meeting to tell Maneer about her. George, with his English family, turn up to meet Neelam and her mum. The look on everyone’s faces is hilarious when Neelam starts talking. A wedding takes place and despite their differences, everyone is happy and enjoying themselves. Sajid doesn’t want to leave, but when he gets back to England, he sits on a shed and plays the flute.
There are quite a few dramatic scenes as well as moments of self-realization. There are also scenes where the characters appreciate what they have rather than always looking for something else. It’s really heartwarming and fun to watch, and you are able to watch different characters learning how to fit into the world. This idea is primarily seen through Sajid, but throughout different cultures are clashing. Oh and there’s a hilarious analogy with Zaid comparing women to mangoes, which is a bit mean but it’s done in a comical fashion.
Thank you for reading my review of West is West. If you’ve seen the film, you can find me on Twitter with the handle @immiebroods and we can discuss it. If you haven’t seen the film, I hope this review encourages you to see it.