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Garland, The (1981)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Garland, The (1981)
For Play for Today, BBC, tx. 10/3/1981
90 minutes, colour
DirectorHorace Ové
Production CompanyBBC Birmingham
ProducerPeter Ansorge
[Written] byH.O. Nazareth
 Horace Ové

Cast: Raji (Tariq Yunus); Leela (Patricia Garwood); Roy (Lyndham Gregory); Huq (Albert Moses); Nadira (Katy Mirza); Amina (Shreela Ghosh); Amina's Father (Ishaq Bux); Amina's Mother (Sahat Qizilbash)

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Englishwoman Leela puts up with Bollywood movies out of love for her husband, Raji. But when her son falls in love with a Muslim girl, and Leela and Raji become involved in the troubles of Raji's friend Huq, Leela develops a deeper understanding of her husband's culture - and her own.

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The Bollywood opening of Horace Ové's Play for Today 'The Garland' (BBC, tx. 10/3/1981) is unexpected but shapes the rest of this play, which, with its unconventional plotting, tears, comedy and tragedy, unfolds like standard Bollywood fare.

Engineering professional Raji (Tariq Yunus) has taken his middle-class English wife, Leela (Patricia Garwwood), to see the film in question. She hates such films but tolerates them because of her love for Raji - in much the same way as she tolerates his culture. He hates the genteel English suburb they have moved to, which he tolerates because of his love for her. She thinks he is oversensitive about racism, he can't understand why she doesn't see the obvious.

A burglary at their house finally puts paid to their evasions, forcing both to confront the issues of institutional racism. Against Raji's wishes, Leela involves the police. She is shocked when they treat Raji as thief, not victim, and racially abuse their 17 year-old son, Roy (Lyndam Gregory), also suspected of being the thief.

Leela's growing confusion and Raji's anger create tension at home, which impacts on Roy, who is already experiencing nightmares and questioning his own mixed identity.

Into this brew comes Mohammed Huq (Albert Moses), an old Handsworth friend of Raji's. Following a Muslim divorce of his first wife, Huq is expecting his new bride from Bangladesh. To sort out Huq's immigration problems, Raji connects him with an unscrupulous but rising Asian bigwig. At Huq's wedding, Roy falls for Amina (Shreela Ghosh), the daughter of a Muslim notable. Roy begins to live a dangerous life - dodging Amina's strict parents and a group of skinheads who have already attacked his mother. With his life becoming unbearable, Roy lashes out at his parents for marrying across the colour line, and creating a life-long crisis of identity for him.

The catalyst for a family reconciliation is the arrest of Huq's newly pregnant wife by immigration officials. Raji and Leela join forces in a futile campaign against her deportation. The tears of Huq and his wife, as they are separated at the airport, bring Leela to a deeper understanding of her country.

Made at a time Britain's inner-cities were exploding in anger, Horace Ové's warm and engaging film, and his use of the humane Leela as a way of allowing middle-class England to directly experience the horrors of racism, could hardly have been bettered.

Onyekachi Wambu

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Video Clips
1. Burgled (6:53)
2. Indian blood (1:30)
Bux, Ishaq (1917-2000)
Ové, Horace (1939-)
Black TV Writers