It’s Not Directly Based On My Life But I’ve Met All The Characters In The Film, One Way Or Another – Jemima Khan at the TIFF 2022
In an interview to The Hollywood reporter at the Premiere of ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022, the cast of the film had a say on what it meant to be a part of the narrative and more importantly, where did the story originate from and what audiences have in store!
Jemima Khan, ex wife of former Pakistani cricket team captain Imran Khan has spent a good 10 years of her life in Pakistan. She mentions that her sons are half Pakistani and that characters we might see in the film are drawn from her real life experiences.
“It’s Not Directly Based On My Life”, she responds, “but I’ve met all the characters in the film, one way or another”
It is interesting to note that ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ will be a one of a kind, infact, first of its kind initiative as the story writer, though hailing from western society has seen and experienced Pakistani lifestyle up close. This makes her narrative a fresh perspective on the Pakistani-South Asian diaspora – one that is not wholly Pakistani, Indian, or Western.
It is perhaps a new way that Pakistanis themselves might not have looked at themselves, and a wholly new way of how the world views us!
Jemima goes on to elaborate:
A very common complaint I heard when I was living in Pakistan is that films in the west only show Pakistanis as terrorists, suicide bombers or fundamentalists, or in a backward, unaspirational way, and that’s why it was really important to cast the beautiful Shabana and a completely different type of story, of a second generation British Pakistani family. If anything, I would say that the Emma Thompson character Cath, really looks upto and tries to emulate the Pakistani family living next door.
“And there are definitely no terrorists in this film!” She says with a nod to her Pakistani acquaintances (and she has many)
It is heartening to see that the writer has attempted to change past narratives and in fact, not only keep away from the ‘terrorist’ word, but also pick up the finer details of life in a British-Pakistani’s world visavis his/her British counterparts.
What’s Love Got To Do With It is centred around a topic that is ingrained in our society – arranged marriage. To now spin this conversation as a romcom, with some pignant bits sandwiched in, will make it more palatable to western palates and surely evoke some chuckles. It might even make some people who are entirely averse to the idea give it a thought!
“It’s my take on having seen some successful arranged marriages and having some preconceived ideas about what they might be like. Seeing some that were incredibly happy including, even in the younger generation,” explains Jemima as she touches upon her personal experience:
Shaban Azmi says about the film:
It’s a warm, feel good film in today’s day, when there’s so much darkness all around, we need something that can lift our spirits.
Asim Chaudhry, British comedian who is also part of the cast of What’s Love Got To Do With It says:
“It was so real. I could really relate to my generation of trying to find love and the solution with love, and arranged marriage. You know, sometimes you gotta hand it to the parents!: Now that is a revelation indeed, and I can see many British Asians nodding off to that one!
Shabana Azmi sums it up succintly:
As the world shrinks and becomes a global village, we are recognizing now that cultures need to be understood on their own terms, rather than the spotlight from the west on the east and I think that’s what the film does. It doesn’t take sides. It doesn’t say one is better than the other. It shows you both, and you can choose.
Film director Shekhar Kapur gives a poignant, all encompassing take on the narrative:
If that’s not enough, what more does the Asian community need to look forward to the watch?
A note on casting:
What’s really going for the film is the ‘out of the box’ and intelligent casting. Despite the fact that Indian actors are playing some Pakistani roles, the film has taken pains to include the remarkable Sajal Aly who will not only weave the born-Pakistani element into the plot, but we also see Shabana Azmi as the Indian actor who will gather support from both sides of the border (just like Sajal) and then there’s Asim Chaudhry and Shazad Latif who will fit into the British Pakistani mould and Lily James of course, who will add the purely western perspective, yet colored by her super mom, Cath aka Emma Thompson!
So the stage is set folks, carry on till Christmas and wait for What’s Love Got To Do With It In January 2023 – it sure seems like it’s worth the wait, and watch!