West is West Interview
West is West Interview
Om Puri is a star of both Indian and British films, having played various parts on the big screen for the past 30 or so years. With credits including City of Joy, Wolf, Charlie Wilson’s War and The Ghost and the Darkness, he has also broken into Hollywood with roles alongside the likes of Val Kilmer, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Back on the British scene and in London to mark the release of the sequel to East is East, West is West, he and he co-star Aqib Kahn spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about working on the film, how George’s character has developed and why the British Indian community was so different in the seventies.

What made you want to come back to the project?

Om Puri

Well, it's a fascinating story, it's a relevant story. And it's a successful film and there was no reason why there should not be a sequel. And it's a fascinating character and you see a growth in that character in West Is West which was not there in East Is East. In East Is East I found him one-dimensional but in West Is West he's a three-dimensional character.
In East Is East I found him one-dimensional but in West Is West he's a three-dimensional character...
How well do you relate to George as a character, comparatively? Do you relate better to him in West Is West?

Om Puri

Yes, I related to him in the sense – well, he's very different from me. But it is the job of an actor to own a character and try and be that character for a certain period of time, while you are filming. And that's what you try and do. But he's identifiable – you can believe that such people do this in society, if not fully, at least part of it could be everyone. I mean, there could be people who are authoritarian towards their children but may not be using filthy language – they may be using more civilised language but are as strict as George Khan.
Did you not enjoy using the language then, the swearing?

Om Puri

No, that's fine. My father used to use this language, for example. So it's not that I'm not familiar with it – a lot of parents do use this language.
A lot depends on the casting, obviously. What did it feel like when you were presented with a totally unknown, untried young man [Aqib Khan] suggested to you as your son for this one? How did you get on with him? He told us you used to clip him round the ear occasionally ...

Om Puri

No, out of sheer fun, because he used to be cheeky at times, you know? Like, for example, this morning he disappeared from the interview and he kept us waiting for five minutes and when he came I told them to roll the camera from as soon as he enters. So the moment he entered, I gave him one [mimes a clip round the ear], I said [George's voice], “Where have you been, bastard?” Which was recorded on camera.
What was it like working with Aqib instead of Jordan, who played the character as a young boy in the first film?

Om Puri

Aqib was wonderful. I mean it's unbelievable that this is his first film. Like Linda surprised all of us with her performance in East Is East. She was absolutely marvellous and this was her first film. And similarly this boy, it was his first film and he was brilliant. I mean he was very focused, very receptive and quick to grasp, you know? His concentration was amazing for a young boy like that – he could have been easily distracted, but he wasn't.
Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

Om Puri

Well, there are a number of scenes. The funniest scene I found was when these two women, the British women visit. The second wife and Auntie Annie show up in this dusty village of Punjab, they open the doors of the taxi and come out, they move the dust around [mimes shooing away dust] and Auntie Annie fumbles and breaks her ankle and cut to George, close-up, dumbfounded, whether to believe it or not. 'My God, I mean, what do I do now? Where do I hide?' So that was a very funny moment. And another moment was when these two white women are sunbathing on top of the roof with the funny goggles on. That was quite funny.
Which scene did you find most challenging to film?

Om Puri

For me, the challenging scene was when he breaks down with Ella and he confesses his love, again, to her. And he talks about his wife that he thought he sends money home, therefore he's a good man. And that was not enough. 'I have ignored my family here' – implying all that, not saying in so many words, but really meaning terrible – you know, really guilty.
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Content updated: 21/11/2017 15:17

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