All my children are bloody English,” roars Om Puri’s chip-shop patriarch George Khan, as this broad, cheerful, culture-clash sequel to 1999’s East Is East transports us back to rainy, racism-ridden Salford in the ’70s.
Bullied at school, shoplifting teen Sajid (a hilariously surly Aqib Khan) is dragged to rural Pakistan by dad to find his roots.
What the movie finds there is a gentle tone, swapping the streetwise laughs of East Is East for identity crises, camel-crammed local colour, and amiably dawdling fish-out-of-water comedy.
Screenwriter Ayub Khan-Din’s spiky dialogue surfaces periodically (“Fook off, Mowgli” is our boy’s idea of a suitable greeting) but Sajid’s heritage-hugging trip, complete with a kindly guru and mystic temple, holds nicely sentimental life-lessons but precious few surprises.
Meanwhile, scene-stealer supreme Puri threatens to run away with the movie. He injects such gruffly touching notes into George’s guilt at rediscovering the family he abandoned long ago, that the film struggles to keep its balance between his regrets and the sitcom-like search for a bride for elder son Maneer (a lugubrious Emil Marwa).
There’s a welcome shock of comic energy when Linda Bassett’s straight-talking mother Ella turns up to reclaim her family. Like Puri, Bassett inhabits her character so thoroughly that she can switch from raucous to rueful in a heartbeat (her showdown with George’s first wife is as sweet as it is sad).
First-time director Andy Deemmony takes his cue from these big-hearted turns; his film may lack the authentic autobiographical tang of its predecessor, but it’s still a thoughtful, unabashedly entertaining follow-up.
A cross-cultural sequel that’s as gently comical as the first was satirical. Despite lashings of Eastern promise, it’s as British as a chip butty.