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Garland, The (1981)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Asian professional Raji and his middle-class English wife, Leela, watch a Bollywood film. They are having their own private duel about their differences. She loves Indian food, but hates the noise and chaos of Bollywood films. When they eventually leave the bustle and diversity of inner-city Handsworth, which Raji loves, to drive back to solitude of their suburban home, Leela perks up.

On arriving home, her tranquillity is disturbed: their house has been burgled. Raji doesn't want the police involved; Leela thinks he is being ridiculous and calls them anyhow. He begins sharpening a knife, and she is shocked at the sudden threat of violence that has intruded into their lives. The arrival of the police only exacerbates this feeling. They are instantly offensive about Asians, and when they discover the identity of her husband, they demand his passport. Soon they announce that they have arrested a young Asian acting suspiciously - it turns out to be Raji and Leela's 17 year-old son, Roy. Even when Roy's identity is revealed, the police persist in their suspicions.

The behaviour of the police poisons the atmosphere in the house. Raji and Leela begin arguing over how to protect their son. Roy becomes withdrawn and paranoid about his identity - it dawns on him that others, like the policeman, see him as a 'Paki'.

The next day, Raji, in Handsworth to escape the fragile relations at home, runs into two former acquaintances. The first, Huq, having just divorced his barren wife back in Bangladesh by telephone, invites Raji to his marriage to a new bride, arriving shortly from Bangladesh. Second, Raji meets Anand, the local Asian big wig, who many call a snake but who is rising even faster, having been asked to stand as a Tory councillor.

Back home, as Raji and Leela give a dinner party downstairs, Roy is upstairs brooding. He is having more visions, trying to understand his identity through the prism of the surreal white and black pieces of a chess game. He has begun to distances himself from his white friends, and after he witnesses the fatal stabbing of an Asian man, the brutal reality of racism begins to dawn on him.

Huq's new bride, meanwhile, has arrived from Bangladesh, and their elaborate marriage ceremony commences. Raji attends with Leela and Roy, who falls for Amina, the daughter of an important local Muslim. Roy begins to meet Amina in secret.

Neither Leela nor Raji keep up with the changes in Roy's life. Raji is preoccupied with Huq, who wants to sort out his new wife's immigration status. Raji puts Huq in contact with Anand, who says he can sort it out for a large fee. Leela finds herself sucked deeper and deeper into her husband's community. At the same time, she finds herself rejected by some whites, like the skinheads who attack her for marrying an Asian.

Arriving home in distress after the attack, Leela is upset by the large number of Asian men in house, trying to sort out Huq's wife immigration status. As she and Raji argue, Roy has sneaked Amina, disguised as a punk, to a disco. On his way home, he is menaced by the same skinheads who earlier attacked his mum. Visibly shaken, he arrives home to find his parents arguing. Overwhelmed, he demands his parents separate because mixed marriages don't work. Angered, his father slaps him. The house is full of tension and tears. Roy, upstairs in his room, daydreams about Amina - who is suddenly whisked away by her angry father.

Roy's separation from Amina may have been in a dream, but Huq's newly pregnant wife is whisked away in reality by immigration officials; her papers have been botched by Anand. Raji and Leela unite to help mount a campaign to keep Huq's wife in the country. The campaign fails. She is allowed one final tearful exchange with her husband at the airport, as Raji and Leela look on, a discarded welcome garland on the floor.