Much of the Pakistani Hussein family has settled in London, striving for the riches promised by Thatcherism. Nasser and his right hand man, Salim, have a number of small businesses and they do whatever they need to make money, even if the activities are illegal. As such, Nasser and his immediate family live more than a comfortable lifestyle, and he flaunts his riches whenever he can. Meanwhile, his brother, alcoholic Ali, once a famous journalist in Pakistan, lives in a seedy flat with his son, Omar.
Ali’s life in London is not as lucrative in part because of his left leaning politics, which does not mesh with the ideals of Thatcherism. To help his brother, Nasser gives Omar a job doing menial labor. But Omar, with bigger plans, talks Nasser into letting him manage Nasser’s run down laundrette. Omar seizes what he sees as an opportunity to make the laundrette a success, and employs an old friend, Johnny – who has been most recently running around with a gang of white punks.
My Beautiful Laundrette is a 1985 British comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. The film was also one of the first films released by Working Title Films. The plot addresses several polemical issues of the time, including homosexuality and racism, depicted within the social and economic climate of Thatcherism.
About the Story
Omar Ali is a young man living in Battersea in the Wandsworth area of South London, right by the railway station during the mid-1980s. His father, Hussein (known to the rest of the family as Papa), once a famous left-wing British Pakistani journalist in Bombay, lives in London but hates Britain’s society and its international politics.
His dissatisfaction with the world and a family tragedy have led him to sink into alcoholism, so that Omar has to be his caregiver. By contrast, Omar’s paternal uncle Nasser is a successful entrepreneur and an active member of the London Pakistani community. Papa asks Nasser to give Omar a job and, after working for a brief time as a car washer in one of his uncle’s garages, he is assigned the task of managing a run-down laundrette and turning it into a profitable business.
At Nasser’s, Omar meets a few other members of the Pakistani community: Tania, Nasser’s daughter and possibly a future bride; and Salim, who trafficks drugs and hires him to deliver them from the airport. While driving Salim and his wife home that night, the three of them get attacked by a group of right-wing extremist street punks. Their apparent leader turns out to be Johnny, Omar’s childhood friend.
Omar tries to reestablish their past friendship, offering Johnny a job and the opportunity to adopt a better life by working to fix up the laundrette with him. Johnny decides to help with the laundrette and they resume a romantic relationship that (it is implied) had been interrupted after school. Running out of money, Omar and Johnny sell one of Salim’s drug deliveries to make cash for the laundrette’s substantial renovation.
On the opening day of the laundrette, Omar confronts Johnny on his fascist past. Johnny, feeling guilty, tells him that though he cannot make it up to him, he is with him now. Nasser visits the laundrette with his mistress, Rachel. As they dance together in the laundrette, Omar and Johnny make love in the back room, narrowly escaping discovery. At the inauguration, Tania confronts Rachel about having an affair with her father.
Rachel accuses Nasser of having invited Tania on purpose to have her insulted, and storms off despite his protests. Later that night, a drunk Omar proposes to Tania, who accepts on the condition that he raise money to get away. Soon after, Salim reveals to Omar that he is on to them, and demands his money back. Omar’s father stops by late in the night and appeals to Johnny to persuade Omar to go to college because he is unhappy with his son running a laundrette.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Starring: Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Richard Graham, Winston Graham, Shirley Anne Field, Souad Faress, Rita Wolf
Screenplay by: Hanif Kureishi
Production Design by: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
Cinematography by: Oliver Stapleton
Film Editing by: Mick Audsley
Costume Design by: Lindy Hemming
Makeup Department: Elaine Carew, Wendy Rawson
Music by: Ludus Tonalis
Distributed by: Orion Classics
Release Date: November 16, 1985