What’s Love Got To Do With It Is A Joyous Pak-Brit Love Story

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Is as simple straightforward and yet sweet and delectable as it can get

What’s Love Got To Do With It Is A  Joyous Pak-Brit Love Story

Subhash K Jha

The sheer joy of watching two of the finest contemporary actresses Emma Thompson and our own Shabana Azmi playing neighbours in London with progenies who have grown up together (yeah yeah, it’s all familiar territory, but hang on) is incentive enough to watch this charming and simple romcom about mismatched marriages, done and undone and then of course the ebullient kiss in the finale that comes on suddenly .

I thought it was cheat-climax lulling us into an illusion of closure before giving us something more substantial. But no. What’s Love Got To Do With It? Is as simple straightforward and yet sweet and delectable as it can get. But be warned: there isn’t enough of Shabana and Emma here. Shabana’s role is especially sketchy. She tries to break free of her character’s cultural limitation and succeeds as only she can.

Emma Thompson, looking strangely like Manisha Koirala, plays one of those boisterous Brit women who wear colour kurtas, love chicken tandoori and big fat Indian/Pakistani women. She struggles with all her might to get it right and save the character from being trite.

The focus, as expected, is on Emma and Shabana’s offprings Zoe (Lily James) and Kazim (Shazad Latif). Both are charismatic players. But their relationship is not given enough breathing space to grow organically. They seem like people who are already in love pretending they are not.

And that whole rigmarole about the pair’s meetings in a treehouse is way too treacly to be cute.

I liked Zoe’s vet-boyfriend who has a wicked sense of humour, quite a change from the others whose quips and one-liners seem to come from social-media platforms.

The conversations are pushbutton funny. I suspect Zoe explores freezing her eggs only so that she could have her best line about not putting all the eggs in one ‘bastard’. The conversations seem to have been written in as  after-thoughts. At his arranged, “assisted”  wedding in Pakistan Kazim’s bride’s drugged gay friend risibly rationalizes his drugged state by saying, “The scriptures say if a man sleeps with another man he must get stoned."

Ha ha. But these lines feel planted rather than organic.

What works is the sense of cultural affinity that grows out of Jemima Khan’s played-by-numbers screenplay. These are people who have held their Pakistani identity close to their heart. Now they must let go, as times have changed.

Shekhar Kapoor keeps the theme of cultural identity on a tight leash letting the Paki-Brit romance play out with chuckles and cuddles. This is a very cute cuddlesome film, not quite the mood you would expect from Shekhar Kapoor. While letting himself travel light Kapoor seems to have decided that fluff is fine as long as it doesn’t get too much.

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