New cross-cultural comedy talks love, London and Lahore

SUHAYLA SHARIF speaks to Shazad Latif, the lead in Shekhar Kapur's What's Love Got to Do with It?

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A new film hopes to do justice to the South Asian community’s diverse takes on love and life.

Written by Jemima Khan and directed by Shekar Kapur, What’s Love Got to Do with It? tackles the classic romantic comedy, adding the right amount of spice with a cross-cultural take on love, family, and everything in between.

British-Pakistani actor Shazad Latif brings to life Kazim ‘Kaz’ Khan, a doctor-turned-dulha who opts to follow his parents’ example and seek an arranged marriage, especially after witnessing the family drama first-hand when his sister chooses to marry a white man.

Shazad Latif and Lily James
Shazad Latif and Lily James star in What’s Love Got to Do with It? (source: supplied)

Could Kaz be part of the 45 per cent of marriages in Britain that don’t end after ‘I do’? That’s what his childhood friend and filmmaker Zoe (played by the talented Lily James) hopes to find out by setting her cinematographic sights on his arranged marriage.

The rest of the primary cast is rounded up by the very capable stalwarts Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi (in her first collaboration with Kapur since Masoom in 1983) along with Oliver Chris, Jeff Mirza, Asim Chaudhry, and Sajal Aly.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? is touted as a cross-cultural comedy, hopefully bringing back the nostalgia of other diaspora classics like Bend It Like Beckham (2002) and Bride and Prejudice (2004).

Lily James and Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson and Lily James (source: supplied)

According to Latif, the film addresses certain stigmas and issues relevant to the South Asian perspective.

“It’s all about communication. I have cousins and family members and I’ve seen the way that they don’t speak a lot of the time. Sometimes I suppose it’s about communicating together and being open with each other,” he tells Indian Link.

He speaks highly about his time working alongside the film’s director, BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated Shekhar Kapur, who has made his international mark with films such as Mr India (1987) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).

“Just working with someone of that calibre ups your game,” smiles Latif. “Spending a lot of time before we started filming and talking to him, over Skypes and Zooms, we spent a month just talking about character.”

Jemima Khan may have added some personal touches, and audiences will certainly feel how the movie has been made with love. Much of the inspiration behind the film likely stemmed from the screenwriter’s own experiences having been married to retired cricketer and now former Prime Minister Imran Khan, eventually leaving Pakistan for London.

For Latif, too, it offered the opportunity to further explore his South Asian identity.

“Each individual’s journey is going to be their own independent journey,” he muses. “I’m mixed race, and I’ve had my own difficulties with that, being seen as an outsider for more than one community.”

Shazad Latif and Lily Jame
A cross-cultural celebration of love (Source: supplied)

When it comes to tales of arranged marriages, especially in a Western context, too many films fail by pandering to audiences and exoticising these seemingly regressive traditions. Perhaps What’s Love Got to Do with It? could be the smart, balanced romantic comedy the diaspora has been craving.

For those wanting a breath of fresh air away from the current era of bland Bollywood ‘blockbusters’, better get the date 26 January, 2023 circled on your calendars.

(PS: spoiler alert, love probably has everything to do with it.)

Suhayla Sharif speaks to the lead
Shazad Latif in conversation with Suhayla Sharif

Up Close and Personal with Shazad Latif

What is a recent film or series you’ve enjoyed watching?

I re-watched Amadeus, which is about Mozart, and it’s directed by one of my favourite directors, Miloš Forman. He also directed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Man on The Moon.

What’s a book you’ve read recently?

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. Fun fact – it’s also an Amazon Prime series starring myself and Lily James.

Out of every movie that’s ever been created, what is the character you’ve always wanted to play?

Michael Corleone is always a good one! I mean, The Godfather is a great character arc and an epic role. But going forward, I don’t really have any dream roles, I just want to work with great people. Great directors have great stories.

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Suhayla Sharif
Suhayla Sharif
An emerging yet empowered voice committed to celebrating Australia's kaleidoscope of perspectives through spirited storytelling.

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