Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole’s film, written by East is East writer Ayub Khan-Din, comically follows the struggles of a young, conservative Hindu couple to consummate their new marriage.
Based on Bill Naughton’s 1963 play, first adapted by Roy Boulting in his 1966 film The Family Way, All In Good Time gets a British-Asian makeover by East is East writer Ayub Khan-Din. Moving the setting from post-1950s northern conservatism to the modern day traditions of a British-Hindu community, the film follows a pair of newlyweds and their struggle to consummate their marriage under the pressure of overbearing family and friends. Khan-Din, who originally fashioned Naughton’s play to comically reflect the colourful eccentricities of an archetypal Hindu family for the stage in his play Rafta Rafta, astutely brings the essence of the original story full circle. This allows him to joyously play on the idea of a young, newly married couple battling outside influence on their journey to losing their virginity, while ensuring it remains fresh in an age when sex before marriage is almost a prerequisite.
Atul (Reece Ritchie) and Vina (Amara Karan) have just got married in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony. Atul’s father Eeshwar (Harish Patel) is the proud patriarch of the family, directing events like an overly zealous filmmaker instructing the actors to hit their marks (indeed, when the wedding video goes wrong he tells the bride to turn around and start again). Caring, warm-hearted mother Lopa (Meera Syal) tries to curb her husband’s autocratic behaviour as best she can but Eeshwar appears more concerned with his own impression on his new extended family. It culminates in a drunken arm wrestle with Atul. As his son has him all but beaten, Atul, barely breaking sweat, realises his father is giving it his all. Conflicted and hurt, he concedes defeat, slacking his grip and allowing his father to win. Eeshwar duly dances around the room, overjoyed at his victory. It sets up one of the underlying themes within the film, as Khan-Din explores the fractured relationship between father and son.
As the young couple make their way to bed, a scene punctuated by a wonderfully funny moment as the revellers wish them a goodnight with wry provocation, we quickly realise Atul and Vina won’t enjoy the peace and solitude they surely desire. Due to paper-thin walls – which Eeshwar reminds them of, with no sense of irony, before they get a chance to go under the covers – their first night together is an uneventful one. Luck is against them next day when, arriving at the airport, they find the holiday company they booked their honeymoon with has gone bust and their tickets have been rescinded. That means they are back at Atul’s family home under the watchful gaze of his father, their marriage unconsummated, and a close-knit community only too willing to natter about it.
Writer Khan-Din, like in East Is East, looks at the domineering, often arrogant father figure, and his attempts to maintain traditional values alongside religious belief in first generation British-Asian children. However, this is handled in a much more light-hearted way in All In Good Time, perhaps evidence of director Nigel Cole’s influence. This is juxtaposed with the loving matriarch who juggles tradition with life in a modern, more liberal western society. Yet, what is certainly more prominent in the film is Atul and Vina’s willingness to subscribe to their family’s ideals rather than shun them. It is a far cry from Jimi Mistry’s sexually liberated Tariq from East Is East. The film is therefore a multi-layered tragicomic interpretation of today’s British-Hindu community as it attempts to fulfil and celebrate the attitudes and beliefs it holds dear.
But All In Good Time never becomes preachy. Together with Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole, Khan-Din maintains a jovial approach to proceedings, underpinned by the humorous, larger-than-life performance of Harish Patel as Atul’s father. The frequency of the writer’s well-timed gags should also be applauded – the regular appearance of a trio of chitter-chatter neighbours commenting on the young couple’s bedroom activity, or lack thereof, is undoubtedly amusing, while numerous off-the-cuff remarks are bound to provide a chuckle or two. Atul and Vina are perhaps a little underwritten, and the drama doesn’t always fit harmoniously alongside the comedy, but Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan are likable leads. Meera Syal is also strong as Atul’s mother, a character that plays an increasingly important role as the film goes on.
All In Good Time is a faithful retelling of Khan-Din’s stage play Rafta Rafta and a fresh, relevant update of Bill Naughton’s original story from 1963. While the contrivances aid the comedy rather than the drama, Nigel Cole’s film is an entertaining and comical look at romance within a conservative Hindu family.
Review by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Nigel Cole
Written by: Ayub Khan-Din
Starring: Meera Syal, Reece Ritchie, Amara Karan, Harish Patel
Country: UK / IMDB
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