This year has seen a number of prequels and sequels released for moviegoers of all ages. They have ranged from the unsatisfactory (Pirates of the Carribbean 4
), through the average (Fast Five
) to the superior (Kung Fu Panda 2
, X-Men: First Class
). Disappointingly, West Is West, a sequel to the 1999 comedy, East Is East, does not fall into any of the above categories.
It is 1976, and the foul-mouthed Chippy Shop owner, George (Jahangir) Khan (Om Puri) is back, fatter and a little insecure. Now that all his mutinous kids have flown the roost, he is left with the youngest, Sajid/Saj (Aquib Khan), who had an unhealthy obsession with a parka a few years ago.
George's wife, Ella (Linda Bassett), and her best friend Annie (Lesley Nicol), still help him run his business. Ella is constantly paranoid about the amount of money George sends to his first wife, Basheera (Ila Arun) and her daughters, whom he has not seen for 30 years. Basheera lives in Pakistan.
Saj is always playing truant, and George is fed up, especially because the boy does not seem to appreciate his Pakistani roots (not surprising, given that the senior boys bully him because
he is a 'Paki'). In an effort to reform him, George takes Saj to Pakistan on the pretext of a holiday. Maneer (Emil Marwa), George and Ella's most obedient son, already lives there.
What follows is a series of conflicting relationships, reconciliations and rebellions. However, West Is West is not a patch on East Is East. To begin with, what made the latter such a joyride was the presence of George's insubordinate kids, including the cross-dressing Nazir. They are sorely missed, despite a one-scene appearance by a pseudo-spiritual Tariq (Jimi Mistry).
Then there was Salford, where the Khans live in England. The neighbourhood had a soul of its own, something that the Pakistani village does not have. In fact, what passes off as the Pakistani Punjab is actually a location near Chandigarh, and never has the Indian Punjab looked so lifeless and devoid of colour. Besides the Ambassador taxis and a couple of buses, there is no sense of either period or drama in the derelict hamlet where the Pakistani Khans live.
What is alarming, though, are the conversations between Saj and his village pal (Raj Bhansali) - they exchange profanities, and make some unflatteringly chauvinist remarks on women and their bodies.
The music does not help much either. 'Aik Alif' by Noori and Saieen Zahoor becomes repetitive after a point. For non-Indian audiences, the RD Burman / Pyarelal tracks in the background do not help evoke nostalgia of an era gone by.
Om Puri does what he has to, but his 'Bloody' and 'Baster' lack punch. Or maybe the director wanted to him to portray a jaded version of his former self. The presence of a Pir Baba (Nadim Sawalha) who will change the young boy is convenient.
Aquib Khan is not as appealing as Saj, as Jason Routledge was in the first movie. His portrayal of an insubordinate son is not convincing enough, and that is more the fault of the script than the actor.
Linda Bassett is subdued, as is Ila Arun. The relationship between their characters is rather slapdash, and there is an inexplicable tiff over who gets to stay in the new house that George builds. Vijay Raaz makes faces throughout, and his talent as an actor is misused.
Zita Sattar overacts as Neelam, the England-based girl, who is coincidentally at the village looking for a husband just when Maneer is looking for a wife. Even better, she resembles his favourite singer.
Emil Marwa looks bored. His portrayal of a good Muslim son in the first movie was a lot more layered. Lesley Nicol is the only one who brings some colour into the lives of this jaded motley crew, especially when she has a fit of diarrhoea.
Overall, Watch West Is West only if you are a die-hard East Is East fan.