East Is East (1999 film)

East Is East

Promotional poster
Directed by Damien O'Donnell
Produced by Leslee Udwin
Screenplay by Ayub Khan-Din
Starring Om Puri
Linda Bassett
Jordan Routledge
Archie Panjabi
Chris Bisson
Music by Deborah Mollison
Cinematography Brian Tufano
Edited by Michael Parker
BBC Films
Assassin Films
Distributed by Channel Four Films (UK)
Miramax Films (US)
Release dates
  • 5 November 1999 (1999-11-05)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English/Urdu-Hindi
Budget £1.9 million[1]
Box office £10 million[2]

East Is East is a 1999 British comedy-drama film written by Ayub Khan-Din and directed by Damien O'Donnell. It is set in Salford, Lancashire, in 1971, in a mixed-ethnicity British household headed by Pakistani father George (Om Puri) and an English mother, Ella (Linda Bassett).

East Is East is based on the play of the same name by Ayub Khan-Din, which opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in October 1996, and Royal Court Theatre in November 1996. The title derives from the Rudyard Kipling poem The Ballad of East and West, of which the opening line reads: "Oh East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet".


Zaheed "George" Khan is a Pakistani Muslim who has lived in England since 1937. He has a wife in Pakistan. He and his second wife Ella, a British Roman Catholic woman of Irish descent, have been married for 25 years and have 7 children together: Nazir, Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah, and Sajid. George and Ella run a popular fish and chips shop in the neighbourhood.

While George is obsessed with the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan and arranging marriages for his children, the children themselves, who were born and brought up in Britain, increasingly see themselves as British and reject Pakistani customs of dress, food, religion, and living. This leads to a rise in tensions and conflicts within the family unit.


International exhibition and responses

US poster obscuring the film's British Pakistani character by featuring a blond woman.

East Is East was remarkably successful for a low-budget comedy (£1.9 million budget), grossing some £10 million in the UK and more than $4.1 million in US cinemas, plus being a big hit across Europe.[3] In addition, when the film was released on video and DVD, it made £12.3 million in UK rentals alone.[4]

Miramax, the film's US distributor, obscured the presence of South Asian characters in the marketing of the film: the poster features the face of a blonde woman, with the Asian characters appearing only in small windows.

In France, the film was called Fish and Chips: la comédie qui croustille! ("Fish and Chips: the crunchy comedy!").[5]

Awards and nominations

The film won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards, and was declared Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards.[6]

The screenwriter, Ayub Khan-Din, won both a British Independent Film Award and a London Critics Circle Film Award for his screenplay. He was also nominated for two BAFTA Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer, and for a European Film Award for Best Screenwriter.[7]

The director, Damien O'Donnell, won Best Debut at the UK Empire Awards, won the Evening Standard British Film Awards and Fantasporto for Best Film, won the OCIC Special Award at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, won the Kingfisher Award at the Ljubljana International Film Festival, and received a number of nominations, among them a British Independent Film Awards nomination and a David di Donatello Awards nomination.[6]


A sequel, West Is West, premiered at film festive and London in the autumn of 2010, and was on general UK release from February 2011. A third film about the family is being planned.[8]


  1. Alexander Walker, Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984- 2000, Orion Books, 2005 p301
  2. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=eastiseast.htm
  3. Gritten, David (2000-04-02). "A Culture Clash That's Universal". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  4. Internet Movie Database: East is East box office results
  5. French cinema poster, retrieved 2010-10-24
  6. 1 2 Internet Movie Database: East is East awards, retrieved 2010-10-24
  7. Internet Movie Database: Ayub Khan-Din awards, retrieved 2010-10-24
  8. BBC Manchester 20 October 2010: West is West follow-up confirmed by Salford film writer, retrieved 2010-10-24

External links

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