East is East
Study Guide to East is East from Film Education
(click the link)
Review courtesy of Kamera.co.uk
The clash between British and Asian cultural values not only underpins East is East, a bittersweet northern comedy, it drives every scene from the off. In the opening sequence, a Christian parade replete with Virgin Mary icons winds its way down a tight, terraced Manchester street. In its midst are six Anglo-Asian kids: the Khan family. As their English mother looks on, their Pakistani chip-shop owning dad, George (Om Puri), makes his way back from the mosque. The news of his arrival sparks a mini-stampede and his children sharply disperse, rather than face his wrath.George (played sympathetically by Om Puri) is a character both intransigent and violent, the root of the family conflict. And within this conflict each member of the Khan family occupies a different position along the cultural fault line: Nazir the eldest is gay and, after fleeing an arranged marriage, is disowned by his father; Abdul, the second eldest, is caught in the family crossfire; Tariq is a handsome, party-loving rebel who rejects his Asian heritage, calling himself Tony; Maneer is a religious Muslim who believes that his family will never be regarded as properly ‘English’; Saleem is an art student who pretends to be studying engineering to appease his family; Meenah, the only daughter, is a loud tomboy who favours kicking a ball to wearing a sari; and finally, the permanently parka-clad Sajid (played movingly by 12-year-old Jordan Routledge), is an observer of the unfolding family drama.
Although addressing serious social issues, East is East is neither heavy-handed nor formulaic. Set with minutely observed period detail in 1971, the backdrop, including the India-Pakistan war over Kashmir and incendiary Enoch Powell immigration speeches, has depressing current relevance. So do – as a spate of current news stories testify – the pressures of ‘izzat’ (family honour) and ‘sharam’ (personal honour) that bear down on the Khan children. While challenging oppressive elements of traditional Pakistani culture, East is East, initially a successful West End play, nevertheless celebrates Britain’s cultural diversity. As such, it’s a timely antidote – and a good deal funnier – than the ethnically-cleansed pap that is Notting Hill.