1993 Directed by David Attwood. Starring Naveen Andrews, Sarita Choudhury, Ravi Kapoor, Ronny Jhutti, Ameet Chana, Bhasker.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 26, 1993
Zaf Ayub (Andrews) has a fearless heart. He has to. Like many dreamers he longs to become a country & western music star and move to Nashville and make records. His problem? He's a Pakistani living in London's Little India district who leads a band called the Honky Tonk Cowboys, an anomalous outfit that nobody takes seriously. With his brown skin, fringed western wear, cowboy boots and hat, Zaf marches to his own drummer while the Southall, Londoners think he's dancing in the dark. The band, which favors the new country sounds of songwriters like Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Dwight Yoakam and Monte Warden, consists of his two younger brothers and another friend, a Sikh drummer. Their manager is a character named Jag (Bhasker), a small-time hustler who gets them gigs at New Asia talent shows and Irish bars and drives a big American convertible with longhorns attached to his car grille. Wild West is an energetic rock & roll movie about a young band poised on the endless horizon and is reminiscent of movies like The Commitments and Leningrad Cowboys Go America. The movie is also filled with lots of local Southall color and chaotic subplots: one about a gang of thugs out to harm the brothers in revenge for a crummy car sold to them, another about Zaf's pathetic attempts at working straight jobs to please his hard-working mother who longs only to return to Pakistan and get away from the country she sees as having killed her husband and ruined her sons. These subplots all feel kind of sketchy and loosely attached. Wild West also seems to want to make some points about negative stereotyping and close-mindedness but it doesn't present any clear proposals beyond a generalized live-and-let-live attitude. It can also be cited for indulging in some of that same negative stereotyping that it decries in its depiction of the two Jewish producers at the end of the movie. The Honky Tonk Cowboys manage to interest some big producers on the basis of their demo tape who then unilaterally reject the band upon sight. However, they are interested in the Cowboys' girl singer (Choudhury) whose dusky beauty they regard as exotic and marketable. She professes loyalty to the boys but Zaf, who is madly in love with her, convinces her to pursue this opportunity for the sake of all the gals and guys back in the 'hood. Despite Wild West's lapses into fuzzy thinking and random energy, this first film by director Attwood is nevertheless engaging target practice.