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  • Writer's pictureShailja Chandra

'What's love got to do with it?' My review of this romantic comedy

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

I recently had a chance to attend the media screening of the upcoming film 'What's Love Got to do with it?' directed by Shekhar Kapur and featuring Shabana Azmi, Lily James, Emma Thompson and Shazad Latif. The screening was organised by StudioCanal. Here are my reflections.

Walk into love or fall head over heels into it? Passion or pragmatism? Magical or mundane? Can arranged marriages turn into everlasting love? What is love and intimacy?

It's not that these themes have not been explored before, but 'What's love got to do with it' lends a nuanced touch to it - never losing sight of the inherent complexities and contradictions, while keeping the narrative balanced, and with a big heart. The movie evokes many smiles and tears, but more importantly, a lasting sense of fulfilment that a cross-cultural tale about contrasting approaches to romance and marriages can be told with depth without losing the familiar imagery and vernacular that we love in a multicultural story.

The big reveal at the Mehandi ceremony brilliantly juxtaposed with the ensuing scene of the Sufi mehfil (the Sufi track was pure love!) truly stayed with me. That tender moment embodied everything that one needs to feel in love and intimacy - everything else dissolves in its unfathomable depths. No words were spoken, only the 'knowing', and the mist of the eyes! And how that moment then shifts the entire frame of reference and charts the remaining graph of the film...there were many such moments that seemed more than the sum of their parts, owing to great direction, acting, writing, and music.

It was endearing that the two protagonists were childhood friends and not outsiders to each other's inner and outer worlds. It granted them great credibility and authenticity. The two doors to No. 47 and No. 49 seemed symbolic of the two dissimilar worlds, yet so close together in space and time and love and connection.

I am a massive fan of Shekhar Kapur and Shabana Azmi and their movie Masoom, so it was very special seeing them work together again. Emma Thompson was brilliant - enlivening the screen every time she appeared. Both Lily James and Shazad Latif didn't let themselves be eclipsed by legends such as Shabana Azmi and Emma Thompson.

Simmer or boil, walk or fall in love, click or connect (some lovely phrases to take away) - I don't think we can ever close out this debate, and thankfully so, but I believe this movie is an important link to deepen and broaden our appreciation of the two opposite outlooks, and that it will not be counted in one of those 'unhelpful narratives on love' that Alain de Botton, the great thinker of our times, has found faults with!

('What's love got to do with it?' releases in Australia on 26th January)



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