There is a certain charm to watching a movie where the audience is as diverse as the film itself. In a world where representation is essential, a British romcom centered around a British Pakistani family is a refreshing sight.
Jemima Khan makes her debut as both writer and producer in “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. While the story is not autobiographical, it is clearly influenced by her experiences of living in Pakistan during her marriage to the former cricketer and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. Her unique perspective adds depth and authenticity to the film, giving audiences a fresh lens on British Pakistanis and Pakistan.
“What’s Love Got To Do With It” is a delightful cross-cultural comedy that explores different perspectives on love and marriage between Western and Pakistani cultures. The film, directed by Shekhar Kapur, tells the story of two childhood friends, Zoe (played by Lily James), an accomplished British documentary filmmaker, and Kaz (played by Shazad Latif), an oncologist who lives at home with his family. Their families are next-door neighbours, and they’ve grown up together in close proximity.
Despite their close friendship and undeniable chemistry, Zoe and Kaz have very different views on love and marriage. While Zoe, regardless of a string of disastrous one-date encounters, is determined to find love on her own terms, Kaz feels a strong sense of duty to enter into an arranged or “assisted” marriage. Although Zoe doesn’t entirely believe in Kaz’s decision to choose an ‘assisted’ marriage, she decides to make a documentary on the whole process.
The film explores how culture and faith shape the views and different paths for the friends, but the ultimate goal is the same where they both hope to find love and happiness. The film has some great moments, such as the restaurant scene in Pakistan between Zoe and Kaz, where the duo debate on British identity. Both Latif and James excel in their performances and look extremely comfortable with each other and the characters given to them to play.
Sajal Aly, who plays Memouna, Kaz’s bride, is a real revelation. She already has a huge fan following in Pakistan but is sure to gain a whole new fan club from British audiences too, as her performance is not just well delivered, but she brings beauty to every frame. Emma Thompson adds humour to the film as Zoe’s tipsy mum and is a pleasure to watch on screen. Shabana Azmi is well cast as Kaz’s mother, as she brings all the right nuances to her character of being a duty-bound mother ensuring her children tread the right path of culture, faith, and expectations of society.
Jeff Mirza, as Kaz’s father, Mim Shaikh as his brother along with Rob Brydon and Oliver Chris, support the cast well. Guest appearances from Asim Chaudhry, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Sidhu Vee add value to the film.
It’s good to see Shekhar Kapur return to direction following his award-winning Bandit Queen and Elizabeth. Even though rom coms are not his specialty, he steps out of his comfort zone and delivers a reasonably well-made film. Overall, Jemima should be very proud of her debut film, which is a charming crowd-pleaser that is sure to leave audiences feeling uplifted and represents Pakistan much more accurately.
What’s Love Got To Do With It is in UK cinemas now.