Brothers In Trouble

on May 14, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
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One of the festival's genuine standouts, "Brothers in Trouble" skillfully and sensitively elucidates the plight of a group of illegal Pakistani immigrants living in a boarding house in 1960s England. Far from being a ponderous study, "Brothers in Trouble" is moving, credible and funny.
The story unfolds through the perspective of Amir (Pavan Malhotra, an actor of alert, sympathetic eyes and compelling presence). When he arrives in England, smuggled in a vegetable crate, Amir is so disappointed that he wants to return to Pakistan. The promise that England held for him seems illusory: once a skilled laborer, Amir is relegated to sweeping sheep dung in a factory. But he soon learns to compromise and, in the cramped quarters of the Yorkshire boarding house, befriends a young student, Sakib (Pravesh Kumar). Amir, Sakib and the others rejoice when Mary, a young white woman ("The Commitments"' Angeline Ball) moves in with them as the girlfriend of the older house master Hussein Shah (Om Puri). But, in Mary's presence, cultural and sexual tensions quickly escalate, leading to a violent confrontation that topples the house's delicate balance.
Writer/producer Robert Buckler has thoughtfully adapted Abdullah Hussein's novel "The Return Journey," redirecting the story to the conditions in the house without losing sight of its central issues: survival and belonging. Director Udayan Prasad, known for his documentaries about Pakistanis in Britain, strikes just the right tone of authenticity. Rather than concentrating on race relations or cultural clashes--stories which by now have been exhaustively told--he narrows his focus to the solidarity and cleavages within the house and, by extension, among Pakistanis. The result is an extraordinary film, strikingly photographed by Alan Almond, who has an eye for resonant images. Starring Om Puri, Pavan Malhotra and Angeline Ball. Directed by Udayan Prasad. Written and produced by Robert Buckler. Drama. A First Run release. Unrated. Running time: 102 min. Screened at the 1996 San Francisco fest.
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