‘No one lives happily ever after in real life…’ but what if they do? And can they? Jemima Goldsmith’s new film What’s Love Got To Do With It explores this as a romantic comedy family movie, canvasing dating apps, a fairytale, yearning love, and arranged rather assisted marriages into one frame.
Goldsmith beautifully holds the grip landscaping the cultural differences between British-born Pakistanis and Pakistanis born and grown in Pakistan. She splendidly crafts comedy scenes based on the perceptions of Pakistani about British Pakistanis that they would be ultra-modern and fun-going, but the facts turn vice versa in humorous situations.
The top theme is the success stories of assisted or arranged marriages and the concerns of the British Pakistani community about their children that they must choose their partners from and within the community. And that is where the concept of What’s Love Got to Do with It? emerges, which is entirely different from Tina Turner’s series “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
Goldsmith’s story under Shekhar Kapoor’s marvellous direction portrays Pakistanis differently with a pleasant image, a far cry from the usual depiction consisting of terrorists and fundamentalists as seen in Hollywood or western productions generally.
The story starts with the exquisite dancing appearance of Cath (Emma Thompson) at her neighbour Ayesha (Shabana Azmi) ‘s home. Her daughter, the lead character Zoe (Lilly James), an award-winning documentary filmmaker, desperately searches for her next project as all her ideas at pitch meetings get dismissed.
Then, her next-door neighbour and childhood friend Kaz (Shazad Latif) decides on an arranged/assisted marriage of his parent’s choice, like his brother. The family hides the secret that their daughter Jamila (Marium Haque) had left home for good after falling in love with a white boy David (Michael Marcus). Yet, Kaz’s decision still surprises Zoe as she would consider him the last person to agree to an arranged marriage. Here she gets the idea to make a documentary filming the journey of finding a suitable match. Kaz agrees, and she gets a green signal from her company.
The fun begins with stupendous scenes of Moe The Match Maker (Asim Chaudhry), Kaz’s parents Ayesha (Shabana Azmi) and Zahid (Jeff Mirza), with entertaining scenes of speedy matchmaking but unfruitful quests. Zoe interviews many new and old happy couples of arranged marriages, establishing those marriages in stable relationships that end with love rather than begin with it.
The movie simultaneously shows Zoe’s life. Her mother, Cath, tries to hook Zoe with the vet James (Oliver Chris) for an assisted relationship, her brother-in-law cheats on her sister, and Zoe’s unsuccessful intimate quests through dating apps. The screenplay of these scenes, especially the beauty-and-the-beast theme, is a masterpiece, and you can tell that it’s the Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner Shekhar Kapoor’s magnificent direction and Jemima’s narration.
Meanwhile, Kaz’s family finds Memoona (Sajal Aly), a beautiful young Pakistani human rights lawyer in her early 20s in Lahore, who interacts with Kaz through Skype with families hiding in the background. The couple likes each other, and the families decide to tie their knots and travel to Lahore.
The Lahore scenes amazingly filmed in a country manner in Suffolk doubled up as the palace in Lahore where Kaz and Memoona’s Mehndi takes place. The external shots of Lahore are filmed remotely by a satellite crew presided over by Oscar-winner Pakistani director Sharmen Obaid Chinoy. Remi’s cinematography is awe-inspiring, especially the Mehndi scenes. Tara Mcdonald does full justice with the makeup, and Caroline McCall’s costume design makes the scenes compete with any Bollywood blockbuster dance numbers. In the Mehndi dance scenes, you will also spot some beautiful outfits by Pakistan’s top designer Mohsin Saeed’s Pink Tree Company.
The singer Naughty Boy features the soundtrack superbly under Nick Angel’s supervision. The legend Rahat Fatah Ali Khan performed in the film, and the Qawali melts hearts. Nitin Sawhney’s composition for the music and the song Mahi Sona co-written by Naughty boy, along with other numbers Nacho Gao and Apni Sunao, deserve to be archived in your music library. Kaz’s Nani, grandma’s comments “behaya” (shameless) for young girls wearing sleeveless dresses, and the ‘Masala Coke’ bits grips the audiences with amusement and laughter.
Memoona (Sajal Aly) performs brilliantly despite having a short role, but Zoe (Lilly James) dominates the whole story being a fairy of some wrecked tale. Shabana Azmi paid full justice to her role as Kaz’s mother. Some of her dialogues, especially “heaven is under a mother’s feet,” are heartwarming, yet the role was too ordinary for that prominent cadre’s actress. The finest actress like Azmi deserved something exceptional which wasn’t present in the script.
Emma Thompson is a pure delight for audiences from the first to the last scene. Her dresses, makeup, style, dances, dialogues, everything is a treat to watch for London fashion lovers. Kaz (Shazad Latif) is an established actor, but the movie will further boost his acting career in Hollywood. He will be a great discovery being a British Pakistani actor for Hollywood.
The climax, however, becomes patent from the midst of the movie when James tells Zoe that he does not wish to be in Plan B and breaks up with her; so you would know where the story is going to end, and that is where the plot needed to be a little stronger. Even though both writer and director tried to keep the surprise bombshell, Jamila (Marium Haque) and (Michael Marcus) David’s interview in the documentary was obvious.
The movie here picks emotional lines, and some scenes literally would bring tears to your eyes during the family drama, but then comes Cath (Emma) ‘s witty performance, which would make you laugh because it’s Goldsmith crafting the saddest situation with such a funny grip that you would fall in love. The end is happy like fairy tales: love is strong enough to let you live happily ever after, even in real life. So, guys, it is full-time family entertainment and a “paisa wasool” movie with a different, pleasant image of Pakistanis globally, and I highly recommend both White and Brown communities to watch. Thanks to Jemima and Shekhar for doing this brilliant project on Pakistanis.