East is east
Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities
East is eastis the hilarious yet moving story of the Khans, a mixed-race family of seven young swinging-70s Brits whose lifestyles clash with their Pakistani father's plans for them. Caught between disco nights and arranged marriages, between bell-bottoms and saris, the young Khans just want to be citizens of the modern world.
Tariq (Jimi Mistry) and his younger brother Abdul (Raji James) are at an age where they can do anything, especially in a world as full of possibilities - and women - in their Manchester haven. But living in a family with seven children headed by a father (Om Puri) determined to give his children a traditional upbringing, their quest for the good life becomes one big game of dodge ball, cleverly and humorously avoiding their father's restrictions at every turn.
Just when the two think they have it all figured out, they find that their father has made a little arrangement on their behalf. Unacceptable to the boys, they launch a full scale rebellion. When their father, George, tries to put his foot down, his English wife, Ella (Linda Bassett), gets caught in the middle of a flying circus, torn between loyalty toward her husband and empathy towards her kid's desires to make their own way in the world.
Also starring Chris Bisson as Saleem Khan, Jordan Routledge as Sajid Khan, Emil Marwa as Maneer Khan, Archie Panjabi as Meenah Khan, Ian Aspinall as Mazir Khan. Written by Ayub Khan-Din, directed by Damien O'Donnell.
Cinematic intelligence sources
- Awards and film festivals:
- Cannes Film Festival 1999: director's fortnight
- Cinematic Intelligence Agency Trenchcoat Awards 2001
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA): Won: best British film; Nominated: best picture, best actor (Om Puri), best actress (Linda Bassett), best screenplay, best new British talent (Ayub Khan-Din)
- London Film Critics Circle: best British film
- Studios and distributors:
Special Agent Matti
East End boys and East End girls.
There's something about the English working class that no other demographic from no other country can match. It's a "don't rock the boat" sensibility that gives free reign to the most bizarre and unbelievable things. Husbands who beat wives, fathers who force children into religion, men who think themselves the centre of the universe.
Despite being a really funny comedy about mixed marriages, arranged marriages and the 70s, East is east is also a dark tragedy about mixed marriages, arranged marriages and the 70s. It's another English thing to be able to twist the two strands of comedy and tragedy together into a rope, knot it up then watch what happens as it slowly unravels.
Did you appreciate that metaphor? You'd bloody well better, it took me ages to get one that long!
Om and Linda present the epitome of their characters: battered, bruised but never beaten. No matter how bad things get they soldier on. We shall fight them on the beaches... They are also both very strong actors with very strong screen presences. They command every scene in which they appear and battle it out when they appear together. This is not a fault of egos but an intensity of characterisation. Mother and Father both want to wear the pants in this house. As family life degenerates warfare becomes more open and more ugly, punching through crunch point after crunch point until the final conflict pushes them both over the line. Cool.
The kids are great, providing tears and laughter in a situation that would be otherwise intolerable. The whole family seethes with unspoken tensions that make your family Christmas seem like a walk in the park.
A word or two must be said about the mise en scène: the 70s are known for their lack of taste (I know, I grew up in the decade) and East is east captures all the tacky, plastic kitsch of the time. It is terrifyingly scary to see so much horrible stuff on the big screen. Skin-tight neon polyester has no place in this world.
It's hard to find anything to which East is east can be compared, but if you imagine Eastenders on acid you'd be close. Have fun!
Security censorship classification
M (Adult themes, medium level coarse language)
96 minutes (1:36 hours)
Not for public release in Australia before date
VHS rental: 28 February 2001