• Festivals

Shekhar Kapur’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” – an Uncynical Love Story

Don’t let the title fool you. This rom-com starring Lily James and Shazad Latif is not a reference to the Tina Turner classic hit, nor her 1993 biopic of the same name, which garnered a Golden Globe win for Angela Bassett. Instead, What’s Love Got To Do With It? is a cross-cultural romance directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Bandit Queen).

While Kapur’s resume is devoid of anything remotely resembling a rom-com, his collaboration with Working Title Films (that brought us the Bridget Jones films, Love Actually, and Notting Hill among countless other British hits) provides the audience with a fun, charming love story.

From a screenplay penned by Jemima Khan, who utilizes her own experience of marrying a Muslim man and living in Pakistan during her youth, the film follows Zoe (Lily James), a documentary filmmaker in need of a new subject for her next film.

When her childhood friend, Kaz (Shazad Latif), tells her he will soon wed via an arranged marriage, while much of the contemporary world is happy texting and swiping left, the revelation inspires her to pick up her camera again. She is determined to capture the process of what happens during an arranged marriage – a construct she deems medieval when compared to the power of attraction.


Set in London and in the Pakistani city of Lahore, the film also includes Emma Thompson, Rob Brydon, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, and Asim Chaudhry in supporting roles.

The film screened at TIFF followed by a Q&A. This is what director Kapur said about this unusual choice of making a rom-com: “The inherent quality of humanity is what drew me. And: if I could go in and find a way to extract that humanity first for myself, and then fall in love with all my actors and then extract it from them, and, if we could all fall in love while we were making the film; what you would see there would not be constructed. It would come to all of us being in love, being very honest. That’s how real emotion works when everybody on the set is in a circle of love and trust. That’s what happened. Because we all believed.”

Screenwriter Khan talks about the origin story and why she felt compelled to write the script. “It’s a result of my ten years living in Pakistan, from the ages of 20 to 30. My intention was to write something that was a celebration of all things Pakistani, a kind of love letter to my old friend, Pakistan.”

Lily James, who we most recently saw in the TV series Pam & Tommy, says, “I got the script in lockdown and I immediately fell in love with it. It made me laugh.  It celebrates love and family. It’s an exploration of that in all the different ways. Also, working with Shazad (Star Trek: Discovery, Falling for Figaro) was amazing. He’s one of my oldest, greatest friends.” It was not the first time they worked together. They co-starred in the BBC miniseries The Pursuit of Love, in 2021.

As the marriage process goes ahead, replete with wildly colorful ceremonies and traditional Indian dancing – which Emma Thompson tries hopelessly but humorously to manage – it becomes apparent that Kaz’s shy bride-to-be, played by Sajal Aly, is not all that she appears.

While the audience watches the film through the lens of Zoe’s cynicism as a modern woman, What’s Love Got to Do with It? is a decidedly uncynical love story.