Om Puri is one of the most acclaimed actors India has ever produced. He received a Bafta nomination for his role in East in East. Now 13 years on he is to reprise the role of George Khan in the
sequel West is West.
We get to know more about George in this film, were you unaware of all that detail when you made the first film?
Well, when you read a script, any script, there is something which is said in the script and there is something which is not said but which you start imagining through the references.
Whether it is the fact that he was sending money home, there was a reference in East Is East.
Or receiving a letter and getting news from Pakistan.
It’s subtext, all that happens in West Is West is a subtext of East Is East basically.
Was it satisfying to explore another side to George, to find a more rounded character here?
Yes, the audience sees that he’s in a very difficult, very tough situation which can happen to any human being.
You can fall in love with another woman, but he tries to balance it because he’s been sending money home in the past and he’s been keeping in touch in terms of correspondence even though he’s never
visited them in 30 years.
Did you have to re-watch East Is East to get back into the way George speaks?
Yes, I did watch the film again because it’s been 11 years, so I just wanted to have a feel of it, of how he was talking.”
Is there anything of your own father in George too?
He is an aggressive man, and my father was an aggressive man too.
Did your father live to see your success as an actor?
He did, my mother passed away when I was in college, but my father saw my success.
Do these films play well in India and Pakistan?
I think this will work very well in India. East Is East didn’t work so well because it was far away from the Indian experience, but this will be more close to them.
What can you say about your screen son Sajid, played by 15-year-old Aqib Khan?
This is his first film, and he’s very bright. He’s done very well, and he was absolutely confident, not nervous at all.
He had seen East Is East, and he had been to Pakistan five or six times, which is not bad. So he had a reference point for this film.
How did you bond with him?
Yes, after shooting or during breaks, during lunch breaks and in the evening we’d go out and have a meal together and sit and chat.
That was happening, and it made him totally at ease.
What response have you had to West Is West from audiences?
A great response, I saw this film with an audience at the Toronto Film Festival, where we got a standing ovation after the film.
And we had a screening at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, a totally different audience.
A Dubai charity premiere we had, and the audience loved the film.
In Abu Dhabi, it was more the Middle East and Indian and Pakistani audience, and they all loved it.