Jemima Khan admits much of romcom script is 'pilfered from real life'

What's Love Got To Do With It? comes to cinemas this week

Watch: Jemima Khan talks to Yahoo about writing What's Love Got To Do With It?

After several years working in the film and TV industry, Jemima Khan is making her screenwriting debut this week with new cross-cultural romcom What's Love Got To Do With It?, which tells the story of a young couple (Lily James and Shazad Latif) who bond while documenting his arranged marriage.

And Khan — who was married to real-life cricket legend turned politician, Imran Khan, from 1995-2004 and lived in Pakistan for many years — admits much of the film was inspired by her own personal experiences.

"A lot of it was pilfered from real-life," Khan tells Yahoo UK.

Read more: Lily James and Shazad Latif share love scene stories

"[The film] comes from my personal experience. Every single anecdote, every single person you meet in the film, is someone that I've — in some way or another — either met in real life, or experienced or seen in real life.

Jemima Khan, left, and Lily James pose for photographers upon arrival for the premiere of the film 'Whats Love Got To Do With It' in London, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Jemima Khan, left, and Lily James at the premiere of the film What's Love Got To Do With It?. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

"Even some of the lines are taken from moments in real life. Like when the mother says 'My parents asked me to choose between two people, so I said: no you choose, so I can blame you.' I remember that being said exactly as it was written."

The film has been produced by British film industry powerhouse Working Title, the company responsible for iconic romcoms like Bridget Jones' Diary, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, and its creative team say that its unique cross-cultural perspective is down to the “absolute stroke of genius” in screenwriter Khan’s script.

Shazad Latif and Lily James in What's Love Got To Do With It? (Studiocanal)
Shazad Latif and Lily James in What's Love Got To Do With It? (Studiocanal)

“[Jemima’s] pretty much the only person I could think of who'd be capable of writing something like this with any real, genuine credibility,” says composer Nitin Sawhney.

“Her style of writing is very open and I think that's because of the way she is as a person. There's real honesty and authenticity.”

“When I read the script, and I said, “Okay, there are some things in this film that are so different, that will throw the audience into getting into a different mindset,” agrees director Shekhar Kapur.

UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 20:  Jemima Goldsmith & Imran Khan's wedding in London, United Kingdom on June 20, 1995.  (Photo by Pool BENAINOUS/SOLA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Jemima Goldsmith & Imran Khan's wedding in London, 1995. (Getty Images)

“Life keeps shifting, and that's what the film does. Those documentary film within a film and fairytale element are the absolute strokes of genius from Jemima.”

Read more: Lily James was 'a real wreck' after playing Pamela Anderson

When it comes to bringing two kinds of Britishness together, soundtrack creator Naughty Boy thinks there’s a lot to be gained by both sides.

“This film has changed the shape of any British rom-com that’s going to come after it. If you haven't worked out your identity or whatever stage you're at in terms of love, you will find the answer to love in this.”

Watch a clip from What's Love Got To Do With It?

“I could have grown up in that kind of situation and I could easily have had an arranged marriage but I didn't. At the same time, it was so relatable to a lot of my friends.”

“I think a lot of British Asians will identify with the journeys of the main characters and what the film represents on many levels,” furthers Sawhney.

“For me, it was a little surprising that everybody said, “Well, that's how they do it in the East. And this is how we do in the West.” We have the same issues that have exactly the same problems,” says Kapur.

When arranged marriages don't work. Tinder is very popular in India. So it works both ways.”

What's Love Got To Do With It (Studiocanal)
Shabana Aazmi and Emma Thompson star in What's Love Got To Do With It? (Studiocanal)

Following two next-door neighbouring families that get to grips with an arranged marriage, this cross-cultural divide is seen quite literally over a garden fence. However, it’s the character of Cath — played by Emma Thompson — that is arguably the most polarising.

“It's so great that Emma agreed to play [Cath] as she plays with a lot of heart, even though the character has some problematic views,” explains Khan.

“She’s blunderingly tactless but is also really enthusiastic about the culture. I think it’s important to me because I think both things are true.”

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“I think that you can get things wrong and you could still have good intentions. There is a tendency to slightly forget that in today's quite unforgiving world.”

Though What’s Love Got To Do With It? tries to answer the question in its own title, the creative team agrees that there’s more to the film than love itself.

“It represents breaking down boundaries at a time when a lot of people are more interested in erecting barriers,” says Sawhney.

(left to right) Dame Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Lily James and Sajal Ali attend the UK premiere of What's Love Got to Do with It? at the Odeon Luxe in London. Picture date: Monday February 13, 2023. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dame Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Lily James and Sajal Ali at the UK premiere of What's Love Got to Do with It?. (Getty Images)

“I think this is a film that kind of breaks all of that down and looks at how — although there may be culture clashes — there are many ways to come together and to actually enjoy and explore each other's worlds.”

“It's a rom-com, but it's a much more emotional rom-com, it uses, in some ways, the very idea of what a rom-com should be,” agrees Kapur.

“It raises more questions than it answers, constantly asking you to question yourself.”

“It's about togetherness, but the togetherness that we understand as human beings — the fundamental unit of the family. What's important is to be together.”

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Is in cinemas from 24 February.