British comedy classic comes to EFF

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We’re celebrating the premiere of Ayub Khan Din’s stage adaptation of To Sir, With Love on the Royal stage with a screening of East Is East, the award-winning comedy film written by Ayub and based on his own upbringing in Salford, on Wednesday 11 September.

Set in the 1970s, East Is East focuses on an Anglo-Pakistani family who are thrown into chaos when the westernized younger generation refuse to submit to arranged marriages. The Khan children find themselves caught between the traditional dogmatism of their chip shop-owning Pakistani father (Om Puri) and the laissez-faire attitude of their British mother (Linda Bassett), making their dreams of becoming citizens of the modern world seem unattainable. 

Largely autobiographical, East Is East began life as a play, written by Ayub at his kitchen table shortly after he gave up a career as a hairdresser to become an actor. First performed at Birmingham Repertory Theatre Studio in 1996, it went on to win acclaim as a modern classic, and one of the defining works in British Asian theatre – although its writer contests that term.

Released in 2000, the film won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards, and Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards. Critical consensus had it nimbly side-stepping cliché with a combination of belly laugh-inducing slapstick, salty dialogue, and a clear-eyed look at the fraught questions of race and prejudice. ‘Comedy almost always has to have some pain behind it to be properly effective’, read The Guardian’s review. ‘The triumph of East Is East is that it realises that and refuses to avoid it’.

East Is East is screened at 8.30pm on Wednesday 11 September.

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