The man with many faces Om Puri gives a lowdown on West is West, the latest instalment of the life and times of George Khan. 1999’s runaway international desi hit East is East brought us closer to George Khan and his rather large family. “It was wonderful to visit George Khan again,” says the actor, “George Khan from East is East was a one-dimensional character. He was an angry old man.”
East is East was directed by Damien O’Donnell, while this film sees the cast team up with Andy DeEmmony. “It was wonderful working with Damien, well, we all have seen the film. Similarly working with the director of West is West (Andy DeEmmony) is also wonderful. He’s very professional, knows his job very well. Also he’s an extremely mild person.”
Revisiting a character after almost a decade has its share of challenges, but Puri is breezy about the hard work he has put in, “West is West’s George Khan is much more complex. East is East’s (George Khan) was comparatively easier to play.”
Despite a career spanning over 30 years, Puri still admits to feeling jittery before a film’s release. “Well, you always feel nervous. I’m from theatre. Even if you’ve done a play 100 times, you’re nervous for the hundred and first staging. But at the same time there is a certain amount of confidence as well. The movie was a huge success in the West. It ran for 15 weeks and it is still running in London. And it has done big business there. It has already earned about 5 million during this period. It’s an intelligent audience there and we have an equally intelligent audience here. All said and done the audience for this film will be middle class and upper class. Working class obviously won’t go to see an English film,” he explains, adding, “If we’re able to publicise the film well then they’ll definitely be interested, though there are no stars in the film. I’m a known face, but there are no audience pullers in this film. People will come more because of word-of-mouth publicity and people who’ve seen East is East would definitely be attracted to this film.”
“My first love is films with a social purpose, with a meaning. Second choice is films that are, in terms of humour, not just comedies, but films which are satires like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron,” says Puri, “Or films who are purely humourous, but a bit more tasteful like Chachi 420. Another harmless comedy was Malamal Weekly, which was a big success, but again had no stars.”
Alongside he’ll also be seen in a cameo in Love Express, where his role is “small but important and spread throughout the film.” He has an exciting array of genre-jumping films lined up for his fans, “Next is a film called Khap which is based on honour killings and is ready for release in July. Don is ready. Then there are two comedies called Choron Ki Baraat and Bin Bulaye Baraati. Also there is Agneepath which is under production.”
In the sequel, West Is West, Khan is worried that his son, one of seven children, would become corrupt under the prevailing western influences of Manchester, North England where they live. He packs him off to Pakistan, to his first wife. Khan is forced to face the family he had abandoned 30 years ago and the rift is evident. Amid a whole array of conflicting emotions and some seriously hilarious family drama, enters Khan’s British second wife, Ella Khan (Linda Basset).
That’s where the story really starts. Love that has waited decades speaks of patience, dedication and also dejection. As Khan’s two wives face off the film promises a lot of high drama. Ayub Khan’s writing is known to laugh at life’s drama, so expect a fair share of laughs too.