Jemima Khan calls Sulaiman and Kasim’s reaction to What’s Love Got to Do with It? the highlight of her experience
Jemima Khan’s upcoming film What’s Love Got to Do with It? is not only her “love letter” to Pakistan but also a celebration of artists from different countries and cultures coming together. We may have to wait a while to get our hands on the tickets but there was, of course, a special screening for her sons Sulaiman and Kasim, and their reaction made the entire experience worthwhile for the English filmmaker.
In an interview with Geo News, she explained why their approval meant so much to her. “Their reaction has definitely been the highlight of my whole experience. They are not rom-com lovers [and] they don’t like those kinds of films — they are my biggest critics. And obviously they’re half Pakistani Muslim kids so whether they liked it or not was very very important to me,” she said.
“I got them in to see it and at the end of it, I could see them being a little tearful. I also heard them laughing and they said ‘Amma we’re so proud of you’,” she said, adding that they knew how hard she has worked on the movie. “I literally thought ‘Oh well, if no one likes it, this is the moment to be proud of’.”
Khan also talked about why she decided to do this project. “I set it as a challenge for myself and I also wanted to write a film that celebrated Pakistan. I wanted to show the colourful, beautiful, joyful place that I knew when I was in Pakistan as opposed to the Pakistan we often see on Western screens,” she said. The filmmaker gave examples of Zero Dark Thirty and Homeland in which Muslims and Pakistanis are depicted as “the baddies” and Pakistan as “a really scary, dark place”.
Saying she wanted to show the Pakistan she knew and celebrate it, she explained why Pakistan holds a place in her heart. “From the beginning I’ve hoped that it would come across as my love letter to Pakistan, this place where I feel like I grew up in. I went there when I was 20, I left when I was 30 and I feel somewhere that it became a part of me. I have huge affection for the country, have many, many Pakistani friends and I still get a lot of love from Pakistan. I’m very lucky and grateful for that and I really really hope that Pakistanis like it,” she added.
Though not a biopic, Khan said every single anecdote, character and line in the film comes from something. “It is definitely based on stuff I saw or experienced and it also reflects my journey and my understanding of what an arranged marriage is.” She drew comparisons between the woman who moved to Pakistan and the woman who moved out, saying there was a big shift in her thought process.
Mentioning the film’s actors and musicians who hail from different regions, she said, “I love that it is a bringing together of different talents from different countries.” Khan added that she doesn’t want it to be “sullied by politics” but “to exist above politics”.
Shedding light on Pakistan’s potential, she said she’s working on a mentorship programme for filmmakers. “I am talking to Fatima Bhutto, my friend, about putting together some kind of fund or mentorship scheme to help filmmakers in Pakistan get their work made and seen globally because there is so much talent in Pakistan.”