Exclusive: Interview with What's Love Got To Do With It producer, Jemima Khan

The writer-producer of StudioCanal UK's latest romcom, What's Love Got To Do With It, discusses filming the British-Pakistani feature set in London and Lahore

By Priyanca Rajput 24 Feb 2023

Exclusive: Interview with What's Love Got To Do With It producer, Jemima Khan
Jemima Khan. Credit: Paul Baichoo

Priyanca Rajput speaks to Jemima Khan, writer-producer of StudioCanal UK's latest romantic comedy, What's Love Got To Do With It - about filming the cross-cultural film in the UK and Pakistan during the pandemic, and her “surprising“ director choice. 

Directed by Shekhar Kapur (Mr. India, Paani) and starring Lily James (Cinderella (2015), Baby Driver), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery) and Emma Thompson, (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) What's Love Got To Do With It centres on documentary filmmaker Zoe (James), who decides to film her neighbour's (Latif) journey from London to Lahore, where he is to marry the woman of his parents' choice. Zoe experiences a different approach to finding love.

After a 10-year gestation period, Khan was finally able to kickstart filming in December 2020, and though a seemingly unconventional choice, she was determined to have Kapur helm the romcom. Filming took place over eight weeks but encountered a hiatus due to lockdown restrictions.
“Kapur is an old Working Title stalwart,“ Khan says of the director. “And a Working Title favourite -- having made Elizabeth and our producer's [Eric Felner] favourite film Bandit Queen, and he is a somewhat surprising choice for a romcom because he doesn't normally make comedies but I think that the film really benefited from that because he coming aboard gave it depth and truthfulness, that perhaps we wouldn't have had if we had a straight up broad comedy director.“
Another advantage is that Kapur was born in Lahore, one half of the two cities in which the story is set, and a world in which Kapur “understands“, adds Khan.
Getting there, however, would pose problems for the first unit as filming in 2020 meant travel restrictions were in full force. Fortunately, close friend and Pakistani-Canadian Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, facilitated the Lahore shoot by directing the second unit at Khan's behest. With a special request to make it look “as beautiful, colourful and joyous as possible.“
Asked whether it was Thompson and James's first time visiting Lahore, Khan reassuringly corrects the assumption -- explaining that the stars didn't travel for the Lahore scenes - namely the engagement party and neighbourhood scenes - and was in fact filmed in a fabricated London suburb. A testament to the film's production design.
“Oh no! Sorry to confuse,“ Khan interjects. “The cast couldn't get to Lahore to film, but the second unit filmed there -- those are real Lahore locations, she explains. We filmed on a greenscreen [in the UK] and Shepherds Bush became Anarkali Bazaar (a major Middle-Eastern or South Asian-centric market)... but what I really love is that I've shown it to my Lahori friends, and they can't tell. 
“Our production designer [Simon Elliott] did a fantastic job with a lot of research,“ she adds, proud that the authenticity clearly shone through.
What's Love Got To Do With It is in UK cinemas now.

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