Jemima Khan’s enjoyable script for What’s Love Got to Do With It? has several romcom-inspired descriptors for the practice of arranged marriage. One of the smartest, Love Contractually, captures the nature of the union arranged by families as well as Khan’s foray into screenwriting.

Is a marriage based on love a safe bet, given the high divorce rate? Might more traditional-minded communities, such as observant Muslims, possess wisdom that godless Westerners don’t? Do mommy and daddy know best, after all? Khan, the British heiress who was married to former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, attempts to answer these questions by turning the romcom’s insistence on individual choice on its head.

The backdrop is multi-culti Britain. Documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James) is neighbours and best friends with the doctor Kazim (Shazad Latif). When Kazim, who doesn’t have a girlfriend despite his scorching looks, agrees to an arranged match with Maymouna (Sajal Aly) in Pakistan, Zoe decides to capture Kazim’s experience in a documentary.

What’s Shekhar Kapur got to do with it? One of the most successful Indian crossovers to Hollywood hasn’t made a full-length feature since Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007. Kapur’s direction in his comeback is largely anonymous, going by the pedestrian visuals and television show-like placement of characters, and can be felt only in the handling of the cast.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? (2022).

While labouring in the shadow of films like Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001) – the gold standard for arranged romcoms – What’s Love Got to Do With It? does fine for itself up until a point. Khan’s insights into cross-cultural currents balance her British heritage with her personal understanding of Pakistani Muslim values. The material is determinedly lightweight even as it tosses out observations on checking prejudices about Muslims, keeping an open mind towards tradition, and appreciating the importance of family networks.

Despite her sincerest efforts, Khan is always sharper about her own backyard. “Loneliness is a Western disease” rings as hollow as “Life is too short and too long to marry the wrong person” lands on target.

It isn’t a documentary after all, even though Zoe is making one (and not a very well-shot film, going by her footage). Even though the inherent logic of the romcom eventually catches up with the narrative, the film offers several witty scenes and a bunch of charming, unselfconscious performances.

Lily James and Shazad Latif have a wonderfully easy rapport, with Latif especially impressive even though Kazim is underwritten and conveniently conflicted. Emma Thompson vamps hilariously as Zoe’s mother Cath. Sajal Aly is a suitably doe-eyed Pakistani bride who challenges Kazim’s assumptions. The cast includes Shabana Azmi as Kazim’s conspicuously bewigged mother Aisha.