‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’: Shekhar Kapoor’s ode to cross-cultural love

Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapoor’s first rom-com ‘What’s Got Love to Do With It?’, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival here this week, is somewhat reminiscent of the two highly talked about films of similar genre – ‘East is East’ (1999) and ‘West is West’ (2010).

These movies have the same template – generational change in identity among the South Asian diaspora in the West, cross-cultural marriages and intergenerational conflicts.

Jemima Khan, the former wife of former Pakistani cricketer and prime minister Imran Khan, subtly weaves into the script her own personal experiences of her multicultural marriage and living in Pakistan.

“I lived in Pakistan for 10 years. I went there when I was 20 and I came back when I was 30. And I went with, I suppose, some sort of preconceived ideas about arranged marriages. I ended up seeing lots of really happy arranged marriages, including my ex-husband’s niece, who was living in the same house with us and whose arranged marriage I watched up very close when she was in the selection process. I came back to England and saw some of my friends kind of struggling,” Jemima said at the premiere of the movie.

The talented cast of Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi allow Kapoor to deftly create a great rom-com experience on the big screen. The scenes shift between Britain and Pakistan as the story unfolds.

Zoe (played by Lily James) and Kazim (Shazad Latif) grow up in the same neighbourhood in London and their paths meet regularly. But their home lives are worlds apart.

Living with her divorced mother Cath (played by Emma Thompson), Zoe grows into a typical independent girl who chooses to become a filmmaker. On the other hand, Kazim is raised to observe his Islamic faith at home and be like anyone else in the secular British society. As is typical with South Asian families in the West, Kazim chooses to become a doctor.

Not surprisingly, Zoe is taken aback when Kazim tells her he is going for an ‘assisted’ marriage to a girl from Pakistan. Since their two families are close social friends, Zoe finds an opportunity in Kazim’s marriage in Pakistan for her next documentary.

In Lahore, the grand, colourful scenes of the couple’s pre-wedding ceremonies are a visual treat. In between performing these ceremonies, Kazim disappears with Zoe. In one of their one-on-one conversations, Zoey says how can you marry someone whom you don’t know?

“Everybody is pretending,” she says. That’s it. Kazim calls off the wedding.

What unfolds next is expected as the two London neighbours have been close friends since childhood.

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