Comedy-drama, All In Good Time (2012), tells the story of newlyweds Atul and Vina, Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan, as they endeavor to consummate their marriage whilst living with Atul’s family. The lack of privacy is further hindered by Atul’s overbearing father, Harish Patel’s Eeshwar Dutt, as well as news of the couple’s domestic difficulties spreading amongst family and friends.
Originally a play about a working-class family written by Bill Naughton, in the sixties, with the same title, All In Good Time was to be the inspiration for Ayub Khan-Din’s similarly themed play, Rafta, Rafta, replacing the British working-class Fitton family with that of an immigrant working-class one, the Dutt family. Rafta, Rafta was then adapted into the film, All In Good Time, directed by Nigel Cole. Nughton’s play was itself adapted by the Boulting brothers and released under the title The Family Way in 1966.
Whilst the core of the narrative follows Atul and Vina, the real heart of the film is Harish Patel’s portrayal as the domineering father - well, as domineering as Patel’s warming smile will allow. Whilst being a seasoned Hindi actor with a filmography dating back to the sixties and then eighties, I first came across Patel in David Schwimmer’s Run Fatboy Run (2007), playing Simon Pegg’s landlord and running coach. For a film starring Pegg, Hank Azaria and Dylan Moran, Patel completely stole that film, and I would say he does the same here. You just can’t help but like him, a point which is echoed by the fact that even Marvel produced a poster of Patel playing Karun, a secondary character in Chloé Zhao’s Eternals (2021), who quickly became a fan favourite.
What really intrigued me about All In Good Time was the subplot concerning Eeshwar and Lopa’s relationship, Atul’s parents. Lopa is played by the phenomenal - and in terms of this site, significantly important - Meera Syal.
“[The film] takes us into quite different territory when it tackles big themes like the failure to consummate marriage, and introduces a major subtext. Mrs. Dutt recalls the close friendship of her husband and the male friend who’d accompanied him from India to Lancashire. This same man later came along on the Dutts’ honeymoon and clearly meant more to Mr. Dutt than his bride. Here we realise that we’ve entered, if only briefly, the world of Tennessee Williams. Failed marriages and the inability to consummate are major elements (as both plot devices and symbolic themes) of Period Of Adjustment, A Streetcar Named Desire and especially Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which has a striking resemblance to All in Good Time.”
Extract from All In Good Time - Review, by Philip French
What’s explored in the subplot are sexuality, companionship and the experiences of the first generation of immigrants in a foreign land. What is implied through flashbacks and reflection is the nature of Eeshwar’s relationship with Brijesh, played by Abraham Chowdhury, the man who travelled to England with Eeshawar and was by his side until the arrival of Lopa. Now, in the film I’m not sure if Nigel Cole was trying to play the nature of the relationship between the men for a laugh, Cole has previously directed Calendar Girls (2003) and Made In Dagenham (2010) thus I’m basing this observation on the lightness of these films - the film approaches topics such as impotency but we’re steered back onto a path of comedy quickly when things get too “heavy”. However, the way I chose to watch the film was to see the two men being a couple. Whether that extended to one of a sexual nature is not explored, aside from the observation that their closeness could be construed as “strange”. What did seem apparent is the men’s emotional needs for one another which was then disrupted by Lopa’s arrival and forever changed by Lopa’s own feelings towards Brijesh.
Whilst it is not a surprise that the newlyweds, Atul and Vina, might have their problems solved as things lead to a robust and rambunctious conclusion - which even the neighbor's admire. What struck me was the ending of the film being given to Eeshawar potentially having his world shattered. In a way All In Good Time is a film about the protagonist, Eeshawar. Whilst masquerading as a comedy-drama about a young couple, set in the present, Khan-Din’s writing is best in his telling of immigrant journeys, which is unsurprising considering his previous two screenplays, at that point, were East Is East (1999) and West Is West (2010). Reflecting on how the screenplay was written and the play, Rafta, Rafta, I wonder if the subplot narrative in the film ran more concurrent to the story of the present day newlyweds on stage. Allowing the parallels of youth, marriage and circumstance - impacting two different generations - to coexist more equally.
I hope, with the popularity of Eternals we might soon get to watch a film where Patel is given the space to be celebrated as the protagonist of a feature. We don't really get to enjoy more senior South Asian leads in UK or American cinema and when studios are seeking the grey pound it's often the same white middle to upper class protagonists. See Quartet (2012) or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) series. I'm not asking to see Patel as the next Harry Brown (2009) but centering his narrative, or indeed Syal's role, in this type of film would significantly impact the representation of older South Asians which is not happening at present.
For Patel's performance alone, All In Good Time is worth your attention and might even prompt you to revisit Amit Gupta’s Jadoo (2013), where Amara Karan also appears, playing Patel’s daughter. I will confess All In Good Time did leave me questions and I do wonder if these are resolved or further explained in Khan-Din’s play. But, for a light-hearted film it's rather charming with a sharper reflection on diaspora than I was expecting, and which definitely could have been allowed to play out further.