Parvez was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and as a child was asked to study the Holy scriptures through a Maulvi. When the Maulvi started his sermon, Parvez would fall asleep, this lead to the Maulvi devising a unique punishment, which ultimately compelled Parvez to stop attending. When he grew up, his marriage was arranged with Minoo and they immigrated to a small town in Britain, where Parvez started to make a living driving a taxi, and found himself free from all religious activity. 25 years later, Parvez is an alcoholic, still driving a cab, while people who had immigrated after him have their own businesses and are wealthier. Parvez now has a grown son, Farid, who is the apple of his eye, and is to be engaged to Madeleine Fingerhut, who is the daughter of the local Chief Inspector. After the two families' meet, Farid has a sudden change of heart when he notices that the Chief Inspector detests his family, and it slowly dawns on him that he and his girlfriend are quite different, and ... Written by
Warm, powerful drama that predicts the London bombings
Om Puri as the character Parvez, opens this film playing a clumsy, overenthusiastic, embarrassing Pakistani immigrant in England, mangling the language and missing every possible social cue. Oh, no, funny little foreign man. Yuk.
But then something wonderful happens. We watch Parvez's life fall apart, and he gradually and inexorably turns into a real person of depth and moral struggle. By the end, he has become a person who will live with you long after the film ends.
In order to make a living, Parvez drives a cab at night. He also fixes up randy passengers with local hookers, though he is not motivated enough to sample them himself. He feels dirtied by this way of surviving, but does not become a bad person himself.
His son, on the other hand, abandons a lovely English girl to join some local Muslim fundamentalists. They are deliberately not clearly identified with either a Sunni or Shiite affiliation, as that is not the purpose of the story. The group imports a radical mullah from the old country, and as he stays in Parvez's house, the son becomes irretrievably estranged from his father.
As the action progresses, the son pursues his concept of holiness and purity, and becomes a bad person. Eventually, Parvez's world collapses completely. As Parvez, Om Puri gives a superb performance.
What is remarkable about this film is not only the human story, which is real and absorbing, but also a discussion of second-generation Brits turning their backs on Western secular society and reaffirming a rigid, medieval orthodoxy from a country they may never have seen. Now, this is not a documentary and shouldn't be judged as such. What matters here most is the way humans relate to each other in the context of religious zealotry.
The scale of violence in this film is modest, but Google "Finsbury Park Mosque raid 2003" and "7 July 2005 London bombings," and you will see the eerie predictive power of art. While watching this film, it's hard to remember that it dates from 1998.
This is a worthwhile film in terms of human drama, and a tribute to the power of the artist to see into the future. Highly recommended.
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