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Reviewer: Fultoo

East is East

Director: Damien O'Donnell
Cast: Om Puri and Linda Bassett
Screenplay: Ayub Khan-Din, based on his play
Fultoo's Rating : 4/5


Culture clashes that are an obvious outcome of ethnic heterogeneity, if depicted in a lucid manner not involving the usual tensions that accompany such clashes, really turn out to be a delight to watch. And that's what Damien O'Donnell has accomplished in his directorial Debut Film East is East. When it's an issue-based movie then one hardly yearns for a storyline and what requires is a sensible and emphatic characterization, which has been handled dexterously by the director in this film.

George Khan (Om Puri) is a Pakistani who has migrated to Manchester, Britain, leaving behind his Muslim wife. He marries an English woman Ella (Linda Basset) and has seven kids from her who are brought up in the Islamic faith. And from here you are taken to a travesty of laughter while the director delicately muses over serious issues like cultural disparity, racial discrimination, religious hypocrisy, traditions vs. modernism etc. and at the end of it you don't even realize that (unless you actually start thinking about them).

George in his fanatic zeal and vanity of beholder of traditional mores arranges a marriage of his eldest son Nazir (Ian Aspinall) within the community without the cognizance and consent of the son. And in a very comically picturized scene Nazir dashes out of the wedding hall leaving everyone including the bride petrified. And as an aftermath to this, the father declares the son dead and fiats the family to severe all relations with Nazir. And the story drifts smoothly with George continuing to inflict his atrocities on the family all in the name of upholding the traditional values of Islamic faith. The portrayal of the frustrated children and the wife being trapped between a martinet husband and non-conformist children is a delight to watch. This might appear as perfect ingredients for some high decibel, tense, sentimental family drama but believe me; all those decibels only leave you with load full of laughter even after the movie ends.

The most wonderful achievement of the movie is, despite handling sensitive issues, the director never tries to project anyone as the protagonist or an antagonist. O' Donnell superbly stayed away from being judgmental by not depicting anybody right or wrong. Though you do expect that the warring parties (if u allow me to say so) who in the end of the movie turn into a direct confrontation, would reconcile their differences and particularly, you all the more expect George to relent and neutralize his jingoistic fanaticism, that doesn't happen and both the parties apparently agree to disagree. This I feel, is a very logical conclusion to such a theme as the beliefs and faiths that are so deeply ingrained in you, to uphold whom you go to any extremity and with whom you have spent greater part of your life, seldom vanish so easily. Certainly an antithesis to mainstream cinema, which more often than not is obsessed with the theory-all is well that ends well, the climax of the movie leaves you with a greater agreement with the director for his sensible 'in'conclusion of the movie than you would have with the expected end.

On performances, Om Puri as George Khan is an absolute treat to watch. His dialogue delivery and histrionics as a rigid orthodox father who wants to control every aspect of the family are some things you will remember for long. And so is the performance of Linda Basset as the dedicated woman trapped between the disgusted children and an autocratic husband. For the advocates of "Bhartiya nari" here's a challenge. And for the director, O' Donnell is brilliant in every possible angle you probably could see the movie. The panache with which he has handled sensitive issues, the choice of language, the satire he has hurled on popular credos demonstrate his ingenuity but for which you would have had to gulp tons of painkillers to relive you from the headache caused by movies portraying issues like culture clashes, racial discrimination, religious hypocrisy.

A must see.
Rating: ****

Reviewed by Fultoo >>>
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