Hanif Kureishi - Writer

Writer. Nationality: British. Born: London, 5 December 1954; son of Rafiushan Kureishi and Audrey Buss. Education: Degree in Philosophy from King's College, London. Family: Former partner, Tracey Scoffield; children: twin sons, born 1994. Career: First play, Soaking the Heat , at Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 1976; several plays produced in London during 1970s and 1980s; Writer in Residence at Royal Court Theatre, 1982; first screenplay, My Beautiful Laundrette nominated for Oscar for Best Writing and BAFTA Best Screenplay Award; The Buddha of Suburbia produced as BBC-TV mini-series, 1993; British Independent Film Awards nomination for My Son the Fanatic ; continues to work in theatre, writing short stories and novels. Awards: George Divine Drama Award, for Outskirts (play); Whitbread Award, for The Buddha of Suburbia (novel); National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay and New York Film Critics Circle Awards Award, for Best Screenplay, for My Beautiful Laundrette , 1986. Agent: Stephen Durbridge, The Agency, 24, Pottery Lane, Holland Park, London W11 4LZ, England.

Films as Writer:


My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears —originally for TV) (+ sc)


Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (Frears) (+ sc)


London Kills Me (+ d, sc)


My Son the Fanatic (Prasad) (+ sc)


Mauvaise passe ( The Escort ; The Wrong Blonde ) (Blanc)




By KUREISHI: books—

The Buddha of Suburbia , London, 1990.

The Black Album , London, 1995.

The Faber Book of Pop , edited with John Savage, London, 1995.

Intimacy , London, 1998.

Love in a Blue Time (short story collection), London, 1997.

Midnight All Day (short story collection), London, 1999.

By KUREISHI: articles—

"Hanif Kureishi on London," Interview in Critical Quarterly , Fall 1999.

On KUREISHI: books—

Kaleta, Kenneth, C., Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller , Austin, Texas, 1997.

On KUREISHI: articles—

Mody, Anjali, "Hanif's Story: Too Intimate for Words," in The Indian Express (Bombay), 11 May 1998.

Dawson, Tom, Review of My Son the Fanatic , in Total Film (London), June 1998.

Richards, Terry, Review of My Son the Fanatic , in Film Review (London), June 1998.

* * *

A controversial novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Hanif Kureishi is an outspoken commentator on multiculturalism in the United Kingdom. His fictional works explore in graphic terms the experiences of British Asians, and his work as a screenwriter and a novelist has been praised on both sides of the Atlantic, suggesting that the views of ethnic differences expressed in films such as My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid , are recognisable beyond their London setting. Kureishi is known for his left-wing politics, sharp humour, and uncompromising views on literary production.

Kureishi had his first play produced professionally in 1976, but it is as a screenwriter and more recently a novelist that he has reached his widest audience. The plots of Kureishi's films tend to revolve around the problems encountered when immigrant families find that their culture is at odds with the traditions and moral structures of their adopted country. His first screenplay, My Beautiful Laundrette , for which he received an Oscar nomination, and which became something of a cult movie in the gay community in Britain in the late 1980s, tells the story of two young men, one working-class white, one Pakistani, as they try to run a laundrette. While the relationship between the two seems at first not to be affected by the differences in their backgrounds, their expectations of the venture could not be more different. While Johnny sees the laundrette as a way of salvaging his life and regaining some self-respect, Omar finds himself attracted to Johnny, rebelling against his father's demands that he marry an upper-class Pakistani girl, and looking on the business as his ticket to wealth and respectability.

Directed by Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette was a remarkable start to Kureishi's movie career, and his second collaboration with the director, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid , is no less impressive. Also featuring a domineering and conservative father figure, the second film's most inventive twist is having the father return from India lamenting the loss of the British culture he used to know. It has become a hallmark of Kureishi's work to overturn conventional views of immigrant families, in this case showing the reactionary father to be more "British" than the British themselves.

After winning the Whitbread prize for his first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia , Kureishi returned to filmmaking with London Kills Me , his directorial debut. Set among the low-lifes and drug addicts on the streets of London, the film predates Trainspotting by five years, but is far less rewarding either as a voyeuristic spectacle, or as an insight into the lives of the characters. Unlike Trainspotting , which offers up heroin addiction as an Existential choice of some magnitude, here the horrors of the streets are more easily escaped, and therefore seem more trivial.

While London Kills Me seemed rather an aimless movie, Kureishi's adaptation of his novel The Buddha of Suburbia as a four-part TV mini-series was a welcome return to form. It was also a return to the themes of his earlier work for the big screen, being the story of the decline into drugs and delinquency of the son of a respectable Pakistani family in London. My Son the Fanatic , directed by Udayan Prasad failed to make such an impact on critics and award committees as Kureishi's early films. Tending towards the sentimental in its portrayal of Parvez, a hard-working taxi driver who gradually transforms into a friendly pimp, My Son the Fanatic lacks the intensity and pace of My Beautiful Laundrette and Samie and Rosie. Yet it is an engrossing movie, reversing the stereotype to cast the older members of a British Asian family as liberal and open to new ideas, while the younger generation embrace religious fundamentalism.

Kureishi's films and writing projects have often placed him in conflict with his family and with the British Asian community whose problems his work explores. Yet his stories have gone some way towards making that community more visible in the British media. Many of the inversions of stereotypes that made My Beautiful Laundrette so unusual in the 1980s, have become staples of British Asian humour in the year 2000, to the point that a hit British TV comedy show Goodness Gracious Me bases its sketches on the kinds of racial inversions that seemed shocking in 1985. Kureishi's latest outing as a screenwriter, Mauvaise passe , teams him up with director Michel Blanc, and French star Daniel Auteuil.

—Chris Routledge

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