What's Love Got to Do With It? is a pleasant and refreshing cross-cultural rom-com

Karishma Jangid
Updated On
New Update
What's Love Got to Do With It? is a pleasant and refreshing cross-cultural rom-com

Shekhar Kapur and Jemima Khan's 'What's Love Got to Do With It?' explores how it takes love, and a village to sustain an adult.

As Indians, we have all at some point in our lives struggled to decide between arranged marriage or love marriage, or at least those who get to choose, have. Perhaps this is what makes Shekhar Kapur's cross-cultural romantic comedy 'What's Love Got to Do With It?' such a relatable watch.

In order to make a documentary about arranged marriages aka "Tinder by parents", Zoe (Lily James) follows her childhood neighbour and friend Kazim Khan aka Kaz (Shazad Latif) as he tries to find a suitable bride. Kaz, a British doctor of Pakistani lineage, is willing to marry according to his orthodox parents' wishes, who strictly detest interfaith marriages. He believes in arranged marriages but 'What's love got to do with it?' is how he feels about them. On the other hand, unable to find her modern Prince Charming, Zoe herself is struggling romantically. With a string of bad romances in the past, she feels lonely. While the film views the world through Zoe's eyes, Kaz captivated me the most especially due to Latif's subtle acting. We all know a Kaz - a family man with a reserved demeanour, a mysterious guy who never gives away what he is feeling except during football matches perhaps. Latif's beautiful and deep eyes further help with the mysteriousness. James' portrayal of Zoe is no less, but Latif owns every scene he is in.

Also Read: Tu Jhooti Main Makkaar is a masterclass in misogyny and an underwhelming rom-com


Kaz's marriage is eventually arranged with Maymouna (Sajal Aly), a Pakistani human rights lawyer, who seems to be caged by her family. By now we know that Zoe and Kaz are supposed to end up together. The film is predictable like that. However, the film speaks the loudest when it is speaking between the lines. Following Kaz around Lahore during his wedding, Zoe feels uncomfortable. She can sense that everyone is uncomfortable. Be it the bride and groom or their families, everyone is hiding something. Are they even aware that they are? Meanwhile, as Zoe captures Kaz's journey, she isn't aware that she is capturing her own too. They have chemistry, but it isn't obvious to them or us. What makes it so life-like is that they confront their chemistry rather awkwardly. The mixed signals are exactly that - mixed, even for the audiences. The script deliberately makes you uneasy so that when the resolution comes, it feels relieving.

One cannot talk about the script and ignore its intriguing politics. Perhaps the cross-cultural aspect of the film is inspired by screenwriter Jemima Khan's own life as she had earlier married Pakistan's ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan. Parallels can also be drawn from her close friend late Princess Diana's life, who had a love affair with British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. Who is the story inspired by is open to interpretation, just like the portrayal of the cultures involved. I, personally, found the portrayal of Pakistan as well as the British-Islamic family very stereotypical. However, a valid commentary on the representation can only come from Pakistanis. The representation seems to have some authenticity to it though, be it the always-angry grandmother or the father who shares anecdotes that sound like WhatsApp forwards. Even the family's treatment of their daughter, Jamila, who married a British man, is very genuine. However, the British gaze of the film makes the representation seem very cliché. The character of Aisha Khan (Shabana Azmi), Kaz's orthodox and controlling mother, is very unconvincingly typecast. The character of Zoe's mother, Cath (Emma Thompson) also seems trite with a forced humour. Maymouna's character too has been explored half-heartedly.

What's Love Got to Do With It? has its flaws, and there are many but it wins due to the delight it makes you feel when you leave the theatre. In the era when filmmakers are (thankfully) turning away from cheesy happy endings, this movie gives you a happy ending that is well-deserved. The film in its entirety is the question, "What's love got to do with it?" with the answer being, "Everything".

What's Love Got to Do With It? is currently streaming in theatres.

Shabana Azmi Emma Thompson Shekhar Kapur Jemima Khan Lily James Shazad Latif What's Love Got to Do With It? 2022 whats love got to do with it