Nigel Cole’s comedy/drama is an unsuccessful exploration of Bolton’s close-knit Indian community.
This story of a newlywed couple and the deluge of wacky and serious problems that interfere with their marital consummation has been put through its paces over the years. Created in 1961 as a TV play ('Honeymoon Postponed'), it was adapted as stage play ('All in Good Time') and then, in 1966, as a film (The Family Way).
In 2007 East is East scribe Ayub Khan-Din rewrote it as an exploration of Bolton’s close-knit Indian community ('Rafta Rafta') and now, under the stewardship of director Nigel Cole, a(nother) version has been brought to our screens.
The narrative kicks off with a noisy and colourful Indian wedding, attended by eccentric family members. "It’s just you and me now," murmurs Vina (Amara Karan) to Atul (Reece Ritchie) while relatives are distracted by the buffet. She couldn’t be more wrong. Back at the in-laws' place, what is supposed to be a night of passion is interrupted by an ill-timed heart-to-heart from Atul’s domineering father (Harish Patel).
His prim and sensible wife, Lopa (Meera Syal), hurries him off, clearing the way for a satisfying piece of slapstick, a bed collapse plotted by Atul’s joker brother (Neet Mohan). The couple laughs, not realising that this is the first of a skew of nightly cockblocking escapades. What should be a natural pleasure – in its absence – turns into an unhealthy obsession for the couple and their nosy community.
Ritchie, one the young fit Brits in BBC drama White Heat, and Khan are a pair of attractive, rising talents. What a shame, then, that their giggling, bickering dynamic makes them seem more like siblings than lovers.
A lack of sexual chemistry undermines not just their relationship, but any dramatic tension the film would have to offer. Centre stage muted, the supporting cast of interfering relatives and catty neighbours trample over any psychosexual and social issues Khan-Din was hoping to highlight.
A sub-plot comes out of nowhere and its revelation sits uneasily amid an atmosphere of boisterousness. Threaded throughout is a plausible father-son power struggle, but the core drama, like the couple’s cancelled honeymoon plane, just doesn’t take off.
The play version was a hit in London, New York, Mumbai and Singapore.
About sexual tension yet without sexual tension. Someone dropped the ball.
No sooner seen than forgotten.