A Kind of English

75 min film 1986 dir Ruhul Amin


A nine year old Bengali boy, Samir, (Jamil Ali) is taken out for the day by his older brother Tariq (Andrew Johnson) and his mother Mariom (Lalita Ahmed). They go boating on an English lake, an image that recalls the rural Bangladesh background of the family.
A return home to Brick Lane in Spitalfields, East London, suggests that the day out might have been an escape from Samir’s moody, forbidding father, Chan (Badsha Haq).

The ‘extended’ family also includes the boy’s grandmother Shahanara (Afroza Bulbul), the mother of Tariq and Chan. Chan is out of work, a frustrated, isolated and nostalgic man, unable to deal with money (he gambles), or with the idea that Mariom should get a job. Tariq, a minicab driver, is more adaptable – equally at home ferrying passengers to West end discos and running errands for the local Bengali community.

The film picks up on a complex set of relationships – the boy with his uncle, the two brothers, Mariom and her mother-in-law, the boy and his grandmother. Each character is involved to varying degrees with their Bangladesh past, from dispalcement and dislocation to adjusting to / settling in England, or the assertion of their own culture here. That past is evoked through letters home, music, and a model village house made by the boy and his grandmother.
If there is strength and variety in the family relationships, there are also fundamental tensions, gradually revealed. Only when the boy goes missing after a parental row is there unity – the family fearing for the boy, alone, at night, wandering the city streets…


The film’s director, Ruhul Amin, was born in Northern Bangladesh (at that time East Pakistan) in 1956. He was brought by his family to the East End of London in 1970, where he worked for ten years in clothing factoroes. In 1979 he joined a film making workshop run by Wilf Thust and Paul Hallam of the local Four Corners film group. Ruhul made his first short film, ‘Purbo London’ with the support of the group in 1982. He made ‘Flame in my Heart’, a documentary about Bengali culture, for Channel Four television in 1983. Ruhul also worked as an assistant editor with Richard Taylor, who produced ‘A Kind of English’. The film was commissioned by Alan Fountain for Channel 4 in 1986. The film was written by Paul Hallam, based on an idea by Ruhul Amin. Jonathan Collinson (now Bloom) was the Director of Photography.

Ruhul has continued to make films for thirty years and is currently (2015) in post-production on ‘Hason Raja’, a feature film shot in India.

Amongst the cast a young Meera Syal has a small role. Famous dancer Afroza Bulbul plays Samir’s grandmother and well known cookery writer Lalita Ahmed plays his mother; folk singer Lucy Rahman also features.

Review of ‘A KIND OF ENGLISH’ from the London Film Festival programme, 1986

“Ruhul Amin’s quiet, humane dramatic feature explores the conflicting influences on the life of Samir, a nine year old Bengali boy growing up in the East End of London. Samir’s unemployed father is a man crushed by his inability to make a place for himself in England. His mother mainatims the traditional role of the dutiful wife, having little contact with the world outside the family home. The most Westernised member of the extended family, the father’s younger brother Tariq, shares the attitudes and ambitions of most English boys his age, but remains bound to the Asian community by his awareness of the ever-present threat of racism.

Directed with restraint and played with enormous sensitivity by the cast (especially young Jamil Ali as Samir), Amin’s film examines the family’s realtionships with each other and the world outside through a series of understated, carefully observed incidenst, from which the themes and the drama of the situation gradually emerge. Devoid of the conventions of the British ‘;social realist’ tradition, A KIND OF ENGLISH recalls the early films of de Sica and Satyajit Ray; and it withstands such comparisons admirably.”
– Clive Hodgson.