Shekhar Kapoor’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” 2022 is a British rom-com that deals with the story of Zoe (Lily James) and Kaz Khan (Shazad Latif), who are childhood friends from London who gradually develop romantic feelings for each other as they grow up, but neither can show it because of sharp cultural barriers that separate their families and traditions, even though they were neighbors. Released on February 24, 2023, in the UK, this film features a talented roster of actors, including Shabana Azmi, Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Lily James, Asim Chaudhry, Oliver Chris, Sajal Aly, Jeff Mirza, and also Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in a cameo role.
It is a colorful journey of two individuals, both independent and successful in their own way, hailing from two different cultural backgrounds and finding their way to each other despite the superficial barriers that society puts up to separate them. The film is chiefly set in London, with some scenes in Lahore, and follows Zoe’s (who is a filmmaker) quest to capture the footage for her latest documentary about the Khan family and their ethnic uniqueness. To do so, she must travel to Lahore to film Kaz’s wedding, which had been arranged for him. She reluctantly adorns her face with a smile as she films the man that she loves getting married to another woman, who perhaps has no feelings for him.
‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ Story
Zoe and Kaz, who grew up together in a London neighborhood, are childhood friends who belong to families that are separated by stark cultural differences. Zoe, an award-winning filmmaker, is from a common British family, while Kazim ‘Kaz’ Khan, who is a doctor, belongs to an orthodox Pakistani family that does not accept inter-caste marriages. Their views on love are as different as their familial backgrounds, as Zoe believes that love and marriage cannot be forced on anyone and that two people should have the liberty to choose who they end up with, whereas Kaz, influenced by his family’s traditions, believes that love is a ‘dangerous sickness’ and arranged marriage is the best and safest option when it comes to establishing a family.
The story takes shape around Kaz’s decision to accept his parents’ proposal for an arranged or ‘assisted’ marriage, as he puts it, having already witnessed their pain and anguish when his sister, Jamila, had married a Briton against their wishes. This gives Zoe an idea for her next film, which will be a documentary on the Khan family, and she decides to accompany her childhood friend on his journey across continents to get married and perhaps to find love. To Kaz, the concept of love isn’t so simple, as he believes that it does not have to be the case that a couple can get married only after falling in love; they can perhaps find their way ‘walking into love’ after marriage. Which Zoe jokingly says is close to Stockholm syndrome.
Zoe scrambles her way through dating apps to find a match for herself, but all she ends up doing is getting involved in casual hookups with strangers, all while not realizing that she harbors feelings for someone else, who may or may not feel the same way about her. She narrates her love life to her little nieces by using fairy tale analogies as bedtime stories and keeps dreaming of someday finding her own fairy-tale romance. Her mother, Cath, is a fun-loving and supportive parent who is a good friend of the Khans. She is proud of her daughter’s career choices and her independence but worries about her unstable love life and tries to find a correct match for her, following the examples of the Khan family, but the plan fails as Zoe does not want it to last.
As the journey to Lahore begins, Zoe keeps her camera close, documenting Kaz’s family and friends, all while trying to hide her eyes behind the camera every time they shift towards him as he gets married. At one point in Lahore, Zoe tries to remind him that she was his first kiss, but Kaz pretends that he does not remember it, signaling that Kaz himself was trying hard to bury his true feelings deep down, perhaps as there was no going back on traditional Pakistani marriage. It is a tradition where family must be chosen over everything else in life, especially something as ‘trivial’ as love.
During the ‘Mehndi Ceremony,’ as everybody is busy dancing and celebrating their union on a gala night, Kaz sneaks out with Zoe, and they travel around the city of Lahore, exploring its sights, sounds, and smells, until they arrive at a ‘Darga,’ where Sufi music is being performed. Both fall silent at the moment as they listen to the singer (Rahat Fateh Ali Khan) sing about ‘dangerous love,’ and Kaz explains what the song is about to Zoe, and we see tears in her eyes. While returning back home that night, Kaz and Zoe steal glances at each other without letting the other person realize it, and when they do reach home, Kaz finally admits that he hadn’t forgotten about the ‘Treehouse,’ where they had their first kiss.
‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ Ending
As Kaz gets married to Maymouna, who appears reluctant from the very beginning, Zoe and her mother return to London. The film reaches a climactic point when Zoe’s documentary is premiered, joined by Kaz’s family and friends. Zoe’s interim boyfriend, James, breaks up with her during the premiere, stating that she is holding back a part of herself as she probably has feelings for someone else. Zoe’s film features Jamila, Kaz’s sister, who was cut off from the family once she got married to someone outside of their culture, and this enrages the entire Khan family, especially Kaz, who feels betrayed and humiliated. Things grow even sourer as Kaz finds out that Maymouna was in a relationship before their marriage and that she was married off against her wishes, leaving them no choice but to end the marriage mutually.
On Eid, Cath invites Zoe to accompany her to the Khans’, and she reluctantly follows in the hope of getting a chance to speak with Kaz. It is at this moment that Kaz tells his family about his divorce, but he has arranged something that may surprise everyone. He has invited his sister Jamila, her husband, and their little boy to join them on the auspicious occasion of Eid. The Khans finally reconcile with their daughter as they see their little granddaughter in her arms, especially Nani Jan, Jamila, and Kaz’s grandmother, who was previously unable to forgive her for her decision. While everyone is busy celebrating the return of Jamila and her baby to the family, Kaz eagerly looks for Zoe, who has left the party early and finds her at the treehouse in their backyard, waiting for him. They remind each other of their latent feelings and finally seal their love with a kiss, somehow fulfilling Zoe’s wish to have a fairy-tale romance.