West Is West may be the second half of a coming- of-age tale, but it hasn’t grown up all that much.
The long-awaited sequel to East Is East picks up at the Khan family’s Salford chippy in 1976, where all but one of the Khan kids have flown the coop. Parka-wearing Sajid (Aqib Khan) is now 13-years-old, dealing with racist bullies, the injustice of puberty, and still not conforming to the Punjabi ways his father expects.
When Sajid gets caught shoplifting, George (Om Puri) decides that a clip round the ear won’t be enough and, in an attempt to teach his potty- mouthed son a thing or two about respect, he takes them both back to their roots in rural Pakistan. But it is George who, returning to the family he left behind, is forced to reap what he sowed 30 years before and is made to feel like a foreigner in his own country.
Swapping chips for chapatis, West Is West attempts to revisit the British/Pakistani clashes its predecessor brought to the big screen 11 years ago. Apart from an unexpected (and flatulent) visit from Auntie Anne and Ella, however, the cultural faux pas just don’t hit as many funny beats as they did first time round.
At a time when discussions about political correctness were particularly rife, East Is East provided comic relief. While it branches out geographically, West IsWest fails to go the distance for an audience who have aged twice as much in its absence.
Being set just five years on means the film can concentrate on the father/son relationship. It also means it avoids having to dirty its hands with the recent (more relevant) politics of Pakistan. At least the family dynamic works – with 45 years and a continent of experience between them, Sajid and George have a believable tension and touching chemistry that provokes questions about whether ethnic identity can be passed down through generations of immigrants.
West Is West may be the second half of a coming- of-age tale, but it hasn’t grown up all that much. This is where the film feels lacking – not in the identity crisis of its characters, but in its own lethargic maturation.
After the surprise success of East Is East, could this be another comic gem?
You can take the Khans out of the country but you can’t take them out of the ’70s. Shame.
It may avoid politics, but something is stirring beneath the fart jokes and biracial blunders.