British Asian cinema is generally defined as "involving screenwriters and/or directors
of the South Asian diaspora in Britain", although films that are essentially
collaborations between Asian and white British writers and directors also tend to be
counted as part of British Asian cinema. The films often focus on British Asian
culture/lifestyle, and especially on how Asian migration has affected British society
and often the generation gaps between the migrant parents and their 2nd generation
British/Asian children. Some films have been evidently influenced by traditional Asian
cinema (e.g. the Bollywood sequences of Bhaji on the Beach), while some are filmed
in a style similar to British social realism films (e.g. My Son the Fanatic, My Beautiful
My Beautiful Laundrette
(1985, dir. Stephen Frears, wri. Hanif Kureishi)
Themes: racism, immigration, belonging, exclusion, alienation, homosexuality,
Omar Ali is a young Pakistani man living in 1980s London. He lives with his father, a
socialist journalist and alcoholic who is the polar opposite of Omar's uncle, Nasser.
Nasser is a successful entrepreneur who, at the request of Omar's father, gives Omar
the task of turning a rundown laundrette into a profitable business. Omar enters a
relationship with Johnny, a former right-wing punk who helps him run the
laundrette, but later drunkenly proposes to Tania, his cousin. Tania escapes the life and
tight grip on her family by leaving on the same train Omar’s mother committed suicide
on. The laundrette is a success and after a brawl with Johnny’s old punk friends which
ends in violence and Johnny defending Omar’s uncle Salim, the film ends with a
relatively uneventful scene in which Johnny and Omar return to their usual activities in
Omar (Gordon Warnecke): the protagonist of the film, a 2nd generation Pakistani youth looking
to become financially successful while he struggle’s with looking after his alcoholic father and
his wishes to have Omar go to college and further his education
Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis): a former right-wing white supremecist punk that enters a
homosexual relationship with Omar and helps him to build and run the laundrette
Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey): Omar's uncle. A capitalist entrepreneur that employ’s Omar, hoping he
can refurbish a laundrette he owns and turn it from a run down to a successful business.
Papa (Roshan Seth): Omar's father. A socialist, widowe, alcoholic journalist, the complete
opposite to his brother Nasser, He wishes Omar to go off to college after earning some money
from helping his husband.
Salim (Derrick Branche): Omar's cousin. He employs the help[ of Omar to transport him
several mysterious packets from the airport that later turn out to be drugs that Salim is
Rachel (Shirley Anne Field): a white British woman whom Nasser cheats on his wife with, when
his wife later discovered this, she curses her and Rachel appears to have bruns on her stomach
as a cause of this. She eventually leaves Nasser.
Tania (Rita Wolf): Omar's cousin, whom he proposes to, she runs away on a train after wanting
to escape the life her father had planned out for her.
Cherry (Souad Faress): Salim's wife, boast about having been to Pakistan.
1. At the end of the film, Nasser visits Omar's father to discuss Omar's future. As they
talk about him getting married to Tania, she is seen on the train platform with a suitcase.
The scene also cuts to shots of Johnny and Omar, all of which demonstrate the theme of
2. Also at the end of the film there is a scene showing Johnny attempting to defend
Salim from Johnny's old friends. This shows the theme of exclusion, as Johnny has now
been ostracized from his friends.
3. the scene where Salim plants his foot on Omar face is significant as is it displays the
power within the different family roles they obtain.
Bhaji on the Beach
(1993, dir. Gurinder Chadha, wri. Meera Syal)
Themes: generational angst, racism, belonging, exclusion, alienation
The title of Bhaji on the Beach is a reference to a popular snack food that originated in
Mumbai cuisine. A group of Indian women, both young and old, go on a day trip to
Blackpool to escape the issues in their lives for a short while. One woman is on the run
from her separated husband for fear he’ll take their child back, another has recently
discovered she is pregnant and after informing her partner, who rejects her, she is left
wondering what to do. Another woman, who is frequented with visions and sequences
of Bollywood-esque trances finds love in the embodiment of the stereotypical English
man. The subplot features the husband of one of the women bringing his friends
together to pursue her, retrieve the child, and convince her to stay with him so that he
will not bring shame upon his own family. After tracking them down and seeing the child
for himself, he realises that this is wrong and retreats without presenting himself to his
1. Asha visits a cafe, where she hears both the elderly women from the trip and the
woman who owns the chip shop comment negatively and making viscous remarks about
one another. She ends up storming out of the restaurant. This scene illustrates the
themes of generational angst and not belonging as she hears the very real clash of
cultures going on.
2. Ginder gives an encouraging speech to the women on the day trip while wearing a
leather jacket over a sari. The mixture of traditional and Western clothes shows how the
younger generation is not completely adhering to traditions.
3. When the elderly women from the trip eat chips they put on their own sauce they
bought with them. The contrast between the stereotypically English fish and chips and
the introduced new sauce symbolizes the culture clash between the Indian and British
East is East
(1999, dir. Damien O'Donnell, wri. Ayub Khan-Din
Themes: generational tension, racism, generational angst, abuse, homosexuality, obedience
George Khan is a Pakistani Muslim and the father of seven children. Although he wants
them to adhere to Pakistani traditions, his children have grown up in Britain and reject
Pakistani customs; Nazir refuses to go through with an arranged marriage, everyone
(aside from Maneer) eat Islam-forbidden bacon. Tariq and Abdul are also forced into an
arranged marriage, which they were originally opposed to as their estranged brother
was exiled from the family from disrupting similar proceeding years ago, but it is
abruptly cancelled when Saleem's sculpture of a vagina lands on the lap Mrs Shah.
George Khan (Om Puri): a Pakistani Muslim who has lived in Britain since 1937. Throughout the
film he attemps to improve his own image rather than the happiness of his family.
Ella Khan (Linda Bassett): George's wife and an Irish Catholic. She sympthasies with her
children but is unable to stand up to George.
Sajid Khan (Jordan Routledge): the youngest child of George and Ella. He wears a parka at all
Meenah Khan (Archie Panjabi): the only daughter of George and Ella. She dislikes traditional
Saleem Khan (Chris Bisson): an art student who has told George that he is training to become
Maneer Khan (Emil Marwa): the only one to constantly obey George and also the only one that
George beats. Nicknamed 'Ghandi' by his siblings.
Tariq Khan (Jimi Mistry): the most rebellious child of George and Ella. Attemps to flee to Eccles
once he discovers the marriage.
Abdul Khan (Raji James): the second-oldest son. Does not go against George's authority until
he begins to abuse Ella.
Nazir Khan (Ian Aspinall): the oldest child of George and Ella. He is disowned by George after
refusing to marry and now works in a hat-shop.
Annie (Lesley Nicol): Ella's sister, who helps George and Ella at the chip shop.
Stella (Emma Rydal): Tariq's girlfriend, whom George does not know about.
Peggy (Ruth Jones): Stella's best friend, who is desperate to have a relationship.
Mr Moorhouse (John Bardon): the Khan's racist, bigoted neighbour who supports Enoch
Powell. The grandfather of Stella and Ernest.
Ernest Moorehouse (Gary Damer): Sajid's best friend and Stella's younger brother. Has an
unrequired crush on Meenah.
1. When Tariq vists Nazeer in the hat shop it is revealed that he now calls himself 'Mr.
Nigel'. When he and his siblings see him, it is evident that he has attempted to get as far
way from Pakistani tradition in terms of clothing and work as possible. This
demonstrates the themes of belonging and exclusion: Nazeer has been disowned by
George, but he has found himself a new life.
2. Meenah and her brothers eat bacon and sausages. However, when Meenah realises
that George is about to come home they hurriedly attempt to hide them, which allows
the theme of generational angst to manifest itself- the children to not follow the
traditions, however, George still does.
3. George consistently asks for ‘half a cup’ of tea as is repeated in final scene, this motif
of the tea represents his own personal conflict with the culture clash and how he is not
fully integrated in either culture.
symbolizes the culture clash between the Indian and British people.
My Son The Fanatic
(1997, dir. Udayan Prasad, wri. Hanif Kureishi)
Themes: generational tension, racism, generational angst, religious fanaticism, belonging
Parvez is a Pakistani taxi driver living in Britain with his Pakistani wife and son. Though he
had no interest in religion as a child and still has none now, his son gradually becomes
more radically Muslim throughout the film and abandon’s his fiancée, causing tensions
between him and his father and eventually causing a rift in his family that gets him
thrown out of the house. His radical beliefs also prevent him from sympathizing with his
dad who is friends with - and later has an affair with – a prostitute named Bettina.
Parvez (Om Puri): a Pakistani taxi driver who’s the main protagonist as he attempts to
reconcile his relationship with his son.
Bettina/Sandra (Rachel Griffiths): A prostitute who is friends with Parvez and later on ends up
having an affair with him. The brothel she works in is later burnt
Farid (Akbar Kurtha): the youngest son of Parvez that becomes a religious fanatic and is
eventually driven out of his house.
Schitz (Stellan Skarsgard): A wealthy German businessman that employs the services of both
Parvez and Bettina, Parvez throws him out of the car toward the end of the film and they part
ways as he refuses to drive away from the fire at the brothel.
Fizzy (Harish Patel): A greedy friend of Parvez’s that came to England from Pakistan at the
same time as him, while Parvez is considered a ‘failure’ with a low income and a bad job, his
friend Fizzy prospers in England and now owns a restaurant
Madeline Fingerhut (Sarah-Jane Potts): The girl who was engaged to Farid before he was
dragged into the world of Islamic fanaticism and decides to find a more appropriate partner.
1. Parvez is often found in his basement listening to Louis Armstrong and one key scene
involves him looking at his bills while the religious leader Farid invited to the house is
preaching to him. This diplays how Parvez values money over religion and has no
interest in faith.
2. Another key scene is when the fanatics Farid has been hanging around with set fire to
the brothel Bettina works at. This shows the lengths of fanaticism Farid has been led to
and is the final straw that severs the relationship between him and his father.