Screen Homage

East is East - Om Puri 15

East is East

One of India's finest actors, Om Puri exuded a reassuring warmth and gravitas over his long acting career, divided largely between Bollywood and Hollywood. But for UK audiences he is perhaps most fondly remembered for his role in Damien O’Donnell’s hugely entertaining comedy which explored the tensions between a Pakistani patriarch and the family he is raising with his English wife in 1970s Salford.

Chip shop owner George Khan (Puri) is a proud Pakistani married to an English woman (Linda Bassett) who is attempting to bring up his seven disobedient children as good Muslims. An overbearing patriarch, known as 'Ghengis' by his kids, he is devastated when his eldest son, Nazir (Ian Aspinall), flees from an arranged marriage. Disowning him, George redoubles his efforts to maintain Pakistani traditions but when his remaining offspring prove no keener than Nazir to adopt their father's values the family go into open revolt and George's frustrations finally erupt.

Superb as the beleaguered George, Puri’s celebrated performance perfectly conveyed the contradictions of a man who wants the best for his children, but whose stubbornness and faith in his cultural identity blind him to exactly what that is. And when the film takes a darker turn as the bumbling, well-meaning George descends into domestic violence, it’s Puri (who was Bafta nominated for the part) who gives the film both weight and consistency.