Director: Andy DeEmonny
Cast: Om Puri,Linda Bassett,Ila Arun,Aquib Khan,Jimi Mistry,Vijay Raaz
Indian Express Rating:**1/2
Yahaan kaun aaya hai,George ya Jahangir? There,in that one heartbroken query,is the essence of West Is West,in which a Pakistani man who calls UK home,comes visiting a previous home he hasnt been back to,in years.
The question is wrenched from a previous wife,whom Jahangir-George Khan abandoned for a new country,new life,new wife. It was your right,says the first wife,her lined face and hooded eyes belying a beauty that was once hers,but did you ever think of us,even once? And there in Jahangir,now Georges downcast mien,you have the shamed admission that yes,he forgot,that yes,he has now remembered,but only when it is expedient.
The reason for his coming back to his patch in Pakistan is a pointer to the kind of conflicted identities some immigrants wear on their frayed sleeve : to show his half-and- half son Sajid,the youngest from a British wife,who he is. Who he really is,not just a ‘bloody Paki who owns a corner ‘chippy shop,but a man who commands respect,owns lands,and cattle,and women.
In the original,East Is East,we saw George shedding his Jahangir skin,and learning to live with the ways of a country in which ‘Paki is used in only one way : abuse. The fact that he has a White wife ( Bassett) mediates his experience in a way that is different from those whose only interaction with people of another colour is over a shop counter. Or in positions of having to provide low-paid services.
West Is West is drippy,but a still watchable sequel,in which the returning Jahangir-George is re-united,temporarily,with a lost vantage. Of being in a place he didnt have to fight to belong,a place he gave up on because there was nothing in it for him. Om Puri fits right back into his role of a man who is neither here nor there,almost as if he never left. The young Aquib Khan lends heart to the film as the bullied Paki boy back in Salford who learns to wear a shalwaar,and go out to the fields for morning ablutions,even if his interactions with a wise sage like fellow in black robes is a bit of unnecessary exotica. Bassett is as sharp as she was in the first one,here having to face the woman who had claim over her husband much before she met him. And,who knows,may still have. But the real revelation of the film is Ila Arun,as the silent,wounded wife who finds the strength,finally,to move past the hurt of being passed over. She is the one who doesnt have to go anywhere; she is home.