Everywhere and Nowhere is in some ways a new kind of British Asian movie. (C0)-writer-director Menhaj Huda is something of a veteran of UK TV but he is best known in cinema terms as director of Kidulthood (2006), the movie which helped to introduce the idea of the British ‘urban film’ featuring multiracial urban youth in films involving a mix of sex, violence and music. In his new film Huda turns to a more traditional British Asian narrative about family, education, ambition etc. with mixed results.
The venerable Philip French in the Observer compared this film to the Loach/Laverty production Ae Fond Kiss (2004). In one sense this is accurate in that the central character Ash is an accountancy student who would rather be a DJ and he encounters various family issues about how to behave in a proper manner and what it means to be a Pakistani in Britain falling in love with an Irish music teacher at his sister’s school. But that’s really as far as the comparison goes. Huda’s film is both potentially more interesting in plot terms and less satisfying as a family melodrama.
Plot outline (no spoilers)
Ash (James Floyd) is a 20 year-old student working part-time in his older brother’s shop during the summer break – but really focusing on his DJ skills mixing classic Hindi film music with various forms of dub and techno. Ash has an older sister who has yet to tell her traditionalist older brother about her Black boyfriend. She has her own place but Ash too is keeping quiet about his DJ aspirations as he still lives with his brother’s family as their parents have retired to Lahore. His three friends also have various ‘issues’ about dealing with their families. Cousin Riz is a devout Muslim who tries to control his more ‘liberated’ sister. Jaz is a womaniser faced with the prospect of arranged marriage while Zaf has to look after his sick father who dreams of ‘home’ in Bangladesh.
The strength of the narrative is in its exploration of identity and lifestyle faced by a variety of characters. All the younger characters are faced with becoming hypocrites in some way – trying to please family and be modern ‘British’ Asians. The older brother, Ahmed, is the only real ‘villain’ in the sense that he is dogmatic. Everyone else recognises that identity is something to work at and that nothing is easily labelled as ‘appropriate’.
What’s new about the narrative is that Huda brings together the generic youth narrative of the urban movie and the familiar South Asian family melodrama. The casting of those icons of British Asian film and TV from the 1980s, Saeed Jaffrey and Art Malik makes this melding clear. The family set up (which mirrors that in Shifty, with an older brother putting pressure on the central younger character) is explained in a voiceover during the credits in which we are told that the parents were born in ‘British Occupied India’ and then came to the UK where their children were born over a 17 year period. The end credits reveal that the film is dedicated to someone born in Bangladesh in 1942 who died in 2010 – presumably someone close to the director or writers. But for the Khan family in the film the dates don’t really stack up. It feels a bit like Huda re-working his own biography (he’s now in his 40s) and Saeed Jaffery as Zaf’s father finds himself switching roles in Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1986) from successful business-man uncle to bed-ridden father talking about ‘home’.
Kidulthood was a fast-paced and ‘vital’ movie but here Huda struggles to make the family melodrama work. The best parts of the film involve the four young men and the scenes in the nightclub where Ash eventually gets to play his music. In some of the family relationship scenes I found the dialogue a bit clunky. I think that this is going to be a problem for the younger audience. The film is being sold as a music film/youth film. The sister’s boyfriend (the DJ) is played by Simon Webbe (of the ex-boy band Blue, this year’s UK Eurovision entry) and Zaf is played by Adam Deacon, the ‘face’ of Kidulthood, Adulthood and Anuvahood. These names will attract audiences who perhaps won’t have the patience for the family drama – as the first IMDb posting suggests. I think that is a shame. The drama is worth exploring and I certainly enjoyed the film overall. Although it isn’t as flashy as in Kidulthood, Brian Tufano’s cinematography is very good and I actually enjoyed the music. Both music director ‘The Angel’ and Tufano worked on Kidulthood.
I shouldn’t end without mentioning James Floyd as Ash. Checking IMDb, I note that as well as various TV appearances he appeared in the British horror film Tormented. I can’t say I recognised him but checking back I find he had a form of blonde Mohican haircut in that film! The trivia on him reveals that he is of mixed Singapore Indian and white British parentage and that he ditched a philosophy degree at LSE to go to RADA. This has given him a certain element of freedom to play a range of roles and he’s one to watch out for. Perhaps he will eventually give the excellent Riz Ahmed some competition?