East Is East (1999, Om Puri, Linda Bassett)

Poster for the movie "East Is East"
R 97 min - Comedy - 14 May 1999
Our rating:

While films such as My Beautiful Laundrette , Bhaji on the Beach and Wild West chronicled the British Asian experience and gained critical plaudits, none of them captured the popular imagination. This masterful culture clash comedy that balanced humour and pathos not only won awards but the hearts of the multiplex audience as well, to become one of FilmFour's most successful films.

Set in early '70s Salford, it centres on George Khan (Om Puri), the architect of his family's dilemma. The Moslem chip shop owner married Ella (Linda Bassett), an English woman, and fathered seven children ranging from the devout Maneer (Emil Marwa) to the wayward Tariq (Jimi Mistry). But the family swerves precariously between Bowie and the dowry until George decides to take charge. Disowning a son who refuses an arranged marriage, he decides that Tariq and his brother Abdul (Raji James) will marry, sight unseen, the twin daughters of a Bradford businessman.

The Khan's youngest, Sajid (Jordan Routledge) unearths the secret. His sister Meenah (Archie Panjabi) also finds out, and the clan conspire to support the values of a normal British life: bacon, Space Hoppers and vaguely disturbing anatomical sculptures…

O'Donnell's debut is an astonishingly accomplished work, balancing high comedy, visual flair and character depth more profound than the original, semi-autobiographical stage play. Om Puri - star of the superficially-similar My Son the Fanatic - is the film's foundation. "I wanted to build on his limitations, his contradictions, his frustration, his complexity", the actor said of George, who has joined the pantheon of British cinema characters.

The diverse supporting cast are equally faultless and the film is likely to be the making of many future stars. The Parka-clad Routledge is a joy, with great comic support from Emma Rydal and Ruth Jones but the film is never satisfied with the simple conceit of White stooges, and grasps for a deeper significance, reached in a single scene, charting George's violent temper.

As the bruises rise, the family watch in silence as The Clangers - another set of mysterious, rootless aliens - wander their own lonely planet.


Director:  Damien O'Donnell
Producer:  Leslee Udwin
Director of Photography:  Brian Tufano

Production Details

Production Companies:  BBC, Assassin Films, Film4

Release Date:  14 May 1999

Running Time:  1 h 37 min

Genres: Comedy
Country:   United Kingdom

Language:  English

Tagline: A comedy of families, a chip shop... and a very randy dog.

Budget and Box Office takings where known

Budget:  $3,800,000
Revenue:  $28,200,000