West is West Exclusive Interviews!
George Khan and his family are back in the sequel to smash hit film East is East in, wait for it, yes…West is West. Where George Khan takes his son back to his roots in Pakistan in order to regain a sense of his lost culture. Not only does the question arise of will he feel further de-thatched from his heritage or will he embrace it? But his father overcomes his own dilemmas of seeing after years his first wife and daughter.
It is very much a different film but still lives up to expectations, taking us on a roller-coaster full of amusement and tears. An emotional film where you follow Sajid Khan (Aquib Khan) on a journey to find his true self while he struggles with two opposing cultures, still guaranteeing many bursts of laughter along the way. The only missing thing is Sajid’s parker.
SimplyBhangra.com's Monika Plaha and Navdeep Bains In an interview with Aquib Khan, Om Puri (George Khan) and writer Ayub Khan Din, we take an insight into the making of the film, and the autobiographical portrayal of the next part if his life.
AYUB DIN KHAN
Why did it take so long to do west is west?
I didn’t really want to jump into the sequence straight away which was expected when the film first came out and was a big hit. I didn’t want to do something so quickly hence capture the original version. I don’t want to create an ‘east is east’ part two I wanted ‘west is west’ to stand alone without everyone seeing east is east.
East is east is said to be autobiographical, what was your families reaction to the film?
My family had seen the play and loved it, they were extremely excited about the film but prefer the stage version because every single brother on the stage had their individual argument and something to say where as in the film you have to condense everyone’s argument to make one protagonist which was Tariq’s character, based on the argument centred between him and George.
Was your own characters conveyed well?
The arguments you see in film are my own arguments formulated over a period of time from leaving drama school to becoming actor from when I grew up and decisions my father made. I loved seeing the film especially the sausage and bacon phase and how father was always seen as enemy.
Is west is west now the second portrayal of your child hood?
It’s based on 1974/5 I was in my first year at school just twelve years old facing racism for first time, I was truanting and getting into serious trouble and being ultra rude to my dad more so than other sons. My Dad said he got to do something before I completely off the rails so he sent me to Pakistan hoping that discipline would have positive influence on me. It didn’t at first, I ran wild for the year I was there and I really get on with my Asian family. The first wife, two daughters’ relatives and children didn’t particularly like me because I was a British kid transported from Salford 1974. I was in Punjab, with no running water, no electricity, and just a radio. All my English clothes were taken off me and Pakistan clothes were given.
Are you closer to your culture now?
Certain events has a big effect on me that made me realize who I was. Being in the Punjab, chilled me a lot and when I came back for a year, the school were worrying about my lessons and O levels etc but I didn’t take an interest what so ever, that year away made me quite chilled but was a massive influence on me and will and has remained with me from then.
You went from writing to acting, why this change?
Writing was a hobby at drama school; I started to write ‘east is east’ at the second year of drama school of 1982 thinking that no one would take it particularly seriously. It wasn’t until an Asian drama theatre was approached by royal court theatre to do a production and someone noticed the play in 1997 and from then onwards ‘east is east’ started.
OM PURI, AQIB
(Om Puri) In the film George is portrayed as a strict and serious father, was it hard to fit into such a different personality?
As an actor portraying a completely different character comes as a challenge. There are characters you are given which are close to your character, sensibility and personality but others are completely different. The different ones are exciting which is used as a motivation to work that little bit harder is.
(Om Puri) How was it like getting back into the character?
It had been a long time from taking part is ‘east is east’ to now ‘west is west’. The character of being George was fresh in my mind; strict, tough and angry! I had to watch ‘east is east’ for accent again but once I saw it, it quickly refreshed my mind and I regained George’s accent and ruthless tone of voice.
(Aqib) How did you begin your acting career?
My head of year gave me a slip and said I should go to this audition, I actually doubted going but I asked my family and they said yeah why not! All the other guys auditioning were actually from drama school so I was extremely fortunate to get in.
(Aqib) West is west is your first acting experience, how is it like starring in your first ever film?
I never thought in a million years that acting would ever be my career; I never thought that I would be an actor. However, the acting experience is amazing! After filming west is west, I am more determined to do this as a full time job. During the experience, I loved going to wonderful places and meeting so many people whom which I have learnt so much from. I have always been a fan of ‘east is east’ and to be a part of ‘west is west’ is just great. The film is brilliant and relates to so many people not just Asians. I’ve just come back from Berlin this morning where I’d been informed tickets have been sold out in many cinemas and they really took interest in the story.
(Aqib) You’re a British Pakistani in real life and in the film, did you feel with your character your embraced the two cultures successfully?
I’ve been Pakistan a couple of times and I speak the language quite fluently so me and Sajid are completely the opposite apart from being short and annoying! I wanted to portray my character well and did a lot of research; I asked my granddad how it was like growing up in the 70’s in Pakistan and touched upon sensitive issues such as bullying. I asked my friends if they had a mother who was living in Pakistan what their deepest thoughts on the situation was and how they felt about it. I extracted these elements and exposed it in my performance.
(Aqib) How was it like working in India?
It was fantastic I’m Pakistani but I speak the Hindi language very well, watching star plus all the time I don’t like it but forced to watch it with mother! I interacted with locals very well and the weather was way better than England’s! Definitely beats school any day, it was like a holiday with friends, the crew and cast are brill and it was great working with Om Puri, wow truly a fabulous mentor.
(Om Puri) Would you give Aqib any tips for his future acting career?
He is a naturally brilliant, born actor and has a lot of talent. However, he must complete his education first nevertheless pursue acting during his holidays as well as working on different languages for example, urdu and Hindustani. One day he could become a bollywood actor! Once his education is complete, he should go to drama or film school and then he is ready.
(Aqib) What are your aspects for the future?
I have just finished my GCSE’S and I’m doing A levels at the moment. I have an agent and I’ve been offered a couple of things and just see what happens from here if it’s good it’s good! Being Asian, I do value education a lot and my parent have always said that education comes first.
(Om Puri) What was the atmosphere like on set was it fun upbeat?
It was fun and enjoyable but there was still a lot of pressure because at the end of the day there was a time limit and we had to finish the film within that time limit. The cast and filming crew all got along well and we have all become good friends. It was smooth running film and the only interference was the sync sound of when the tractors would drive past the fields as we were shooting in a fairly remote area surrounded by a lot of green land.
(Aqib) Behind the scenes, shooting the film was actually financially very difficult. It’s a low budget film so the cost had to come from private investors and BBC films of course. One problem was I couldn’t get my visa, so I ended up missing a whole week of rehearsals! Filming was great although we had to follow a pretty hard schedule. We only had Sunday off but like I said it was like a holiday working with fantastic people in a fantastic place.
(Om Puri) You’ve done Asian films before and now English films, how would you differentiate the two?
There’s no question of difference. When you know it is a good piece of work then you agree to participate and do the best you can possibly do. Britain has been very kind to me and has given me a lot of good work from ‘east is east’ to now ‘west is west’ and I am proud of that work.
(Om Puri) Is there a third film coming out?
Yes, there is another sequel so fortunately we will be working with each other again!
With young actor, Aquib Khan’s natural talent and Om puri living up to his legendary expectations West is West is a must see film. Both bonded amazingly well, having a father son like relationship in real life creating a candid atmosphere on set. Not only is the cast yet again truly excellent in this sequel but the outstanding script of Ayub Khan Din fails not to produce yet another exhilarating film keeping your eyes fixed like cement to the screen!
So on 25th February, grab your popcorn and prepare yourself for one of the best movies of 2011, West is West!