This week’s lesson: you can’t judge a movie by its cover.
When I picked up East is East and read the description on the box,
I thought I’d picked up a light, funny movie about a Muslim Pakistani father who brings
about all kinds of crazy teenage rebellion when he announces that he’s arranged marriages
for his two young playboy sons. The summary on the box even called it a “hilarious,
But don’t be fooled—as I was. East is East
isn’t the wacky My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding-like culture comedy that you might expect
from the description. Actually, East is East is the story of George Khan (Om
Puri), a Muslim who moves from Pakistan (leaving behind a Pakistani wife) to England,
where he meets and marries Ella (Linda Bassett), a British woman. Twenty-five years
later (in 1971), George and Ella have a chip shop and seven children (six boys and a
girl) who aren’t turning out as George expected. When the oldest son runs out of his
arranged marriage ceremony, George decides that it’s well past time to put his foot down.
He sends the kids to the Mosque school to teach them about their culture—but they don’t
really seem to care. One son, Tariq (Jimi Mistry)—known as “Tony” in the night clubs
around town—is the area’s most eligible bachelor. Another son is studying art—though his
dad thinks he’s in college for engineering. And their youngest son spends his life
hidden behind the hood of his grubby parka.
In order to stop worrying
about his kids and their non-Muslim ways, George decides that he needs to marry them
off—so he secretly arranges for Tariq and another son, Abdul (Raji James), to marry what
could be the two ugliest Muslim girls in all of England. When Ella finds out, she’s
furious—but nowhere near as furious as Tariq is when he finds
Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that East is
East is totally unlike the description I read. The movie itself isn’t really about
rebellious teens. Other than Tariq, the kids aren’t all that rebellious—and the arranged
marriage part doesn’t even appear until quite late in the film. It’s more about a rigid
father who tries to hold his children to the ways of a country they’ve never even seen.
And while there are a few humorous moments (many of which rely on a rather vulgar sense
of humor), East is East is definitely not what I’d call a “hilarious, good-time
comedy.” In fact, I found it somewhat depressing.
The part that bothered
me most was the film’s subtle way of making child and spouse abuse look like an
acceptable way to keep a family in line. “Father knows best,” the film seems to tell
viewers. “He’s just looking out for his family. And if they won’t obey, sometimes he
needs to be hard on them—and that’s okay because they deserve it.”
is East is an interesting look at Pakistani/Muslim culture—and at what happens when
two very different cultures collide. But while it has its bright, humorous moments, I
can’t say that this was a movie that put a smile on my face—or one that’s on my list of
movies to see again. So if you want to watch a comedic film about cultural issues, see
My Big Fat Greek
And let this be a warning to you: don’t believe
everything you read on the cover of a movie.