It’s never too late for a sequel. Word on the web was that when the production of West Is West was in works, it was delayed, deemed ‘fairly unnecessary’ because of the eleven year gap, and may just as well be a sequel flop like many other original hits have suffered from. It isn’t the same thing, but take TRON as an example to show that its sequel TRON: Legacy worked despite a massive gap — 28 years to be precise — between the prequel and sequel.
The plot of West Is West is the cinematic equivalent of a car ride — it drives quickly (to Pakistan), runs out of petrol upon reaching its number one destination, and then the characters refill it for the rest of the journey. In other words — the film picks up pace very quickly at the start, almost as if deliberately rushing Sajid off to Pakistan. When at Pakistan, it’s about 15-20 minutes into the film and an hour and a half remains so the whole plot (which is primarily Sajid’s issue in England that apparently will be fixed by his father’s tyrannical insistence of adapting to the environment in the Punjab) has to be stretched over that time. It is here it begins to lack the luster it began with as it moves a lot slower than the time in England. Thankfully, the characters and a subplot involving Sajid’s brother Maneer’s engagement/marriage manages to uplift the film so the overall net result is positive.
It’s a positive result, but not the best. There are blemishes in the camel colored land. Obviously not literal ones (in the sense of blemishes on appearances) which are visible to the naked eye because the location choice is brilliant; Pakistan is recreated in a realistic landscape even though it is reported that it was filmed in India. It’s also reported that the land was recreated from photographs that screenwriter Ayub Khan-Din took of Pakistan so there is a fairly accurate depiction of the country.
The faults of the film can be detected when observing its pace. One was, like stated in the second paragraph, when the family reaches Pakistan. Another was Sajid himself. Newcomer Aqib Khan is a great substitute for Jordan Routledge as the runt of the Khan litter, but he is infected with a flaw that is his abrupt shifting between scenes. For example, we first see him heavily insult the character Zaid (Raj Bhansali) and mere seconds later we see him listening to Zaid’s commands to follow him as if they have bonded as friends instantaneously. And the third fault was the editing decisions — the film strikes a good balance between emotion and humor but it’s erratic.
They are the main negatives of the film, as a standalone, that come into mind. Yes, West Is West can be classed as a standalone — it isn’t necessary to have seen East is East in order to grasp the story. Past events aren’t recapped or looked at again, although having seen that movie will enlighten the experience and provide an understanding of the marriage theme and offer some background to the characters. (It is accepted as a sequel since some of the recurring characters, the screenwriter and producer of East is East returned to reprise their roles).
And while East is East is the more lively film, West Is West carries a lot more sentiment. This time around, it isn’t just about marriage — it also has the themes of culture and respect (the dominant reason for Sajid being sent to Pakistan is to learn to respect his progenitor). At its core it tells a story that demonstrates how we should be tolerant to the environment in the sense that we live in a multi-cultural society. People from different cultures live together and if not deeply, we should at least broadly learn to appreciate our cultural differences. We should respect the other cultures and people, on the whole. It can be seen in the seriously funny (oxymoron intended) George Khan (Om Puri). Unlike in East is East, his character develops throughout the film culminating in someone who could look back and notice a great change in himself. There is also a definite development in Sajid as he steadily learns to adapt to the Pakistani culture.
Whilst I suspect it won’t have the same replay value nor be as big of a word-of-mouth hit as its predecessor, West Is West has very enjoyable content — leaving the impression of it being a good, if not great, film with audiences. With heart and sheer amusement, it’s certainly not a sequel flop.