We have lately started realizing that some people are awful enough that they should keep pretending to be someone else for the rest of their lives. Also, while we understand why Shekhar Kapoor, the director of Indian origin, might adopt a primarily British perspective, we cannot fathom that he bought into the white savior complex of the story in “What’s Love Got To Do With It?.” Also, why does Hollywood seem to think that every time a woman faces a setback, the only way she can deal with it is by trying to sleep with someone? And as awful as Kaz was, we cannot say that we don’t know men like him. But why was Zoe so poorly written? It is almost as if people don’t understand that an independent woman is not necessarily lonely. Again, if they accepted that, they wouldn’t be able to sell them the concept of marriage.
But if we are being honest, as long as we don’t get into the quagmire of the ignorance of misogyny in Asian marriages, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” is decently entertaining. But if you understand even basic Instagram feminism, you would want to scratch your eyes out. And the audacity to rope in the white savior trope on top of it is commendable. But that is enough about its drawbacks because we just couldn’t be bothered anymore. This movie does not care for a reality check, and we don’t intend to waste it on this. Let us get into what happens in Shekhar Kapoor’s film.
Kaz’s Assisted Marriage
Kaz and Zoe have been neighbors and friends all their lives. Kaz is planning on getting married to a girl of his parent’s choice, something he likes to call assisted marriage instead of arranged marriage. We were not aware that the terminology had changed. But irrespective of that, Zoe is surprised at his decision to do so because she cannot fathom how one can marry a total stranger. We wish more people would stop to ask this. But on the other hand, in Zoe’s life, she is an award-winning filmmaker who is hunting for her next big idea to make a film. When all her ideas are deemed a little too grim, she pitches that she could cover her neighbors’ arranged marriage, a concept that Britishers are still baffled by. She terms it “love contractually,” and yes, the name says it all. But unfortunately for Zoe, Kaz is not immediately on board with the idea. We don’t like admitting it, but the system of “arranged” marriage is one of extreme classism and sexism and is also a glimpse of the racism that Asian households are capable of. But this is not why Kaz is against being followed by a camera. It is just an initial resistance that melts away soon enough when Zoe wins a bet against him. As Zoe starts following him with a camera, she finds the process as intriguing as most Asian people would find it traumatizing. The complexion, ethnicity, and ambition of the girl-to-be are debated and decided. Why did Zoe fall in love with Kaz even after witnessing how misogynistic his family is?
While she is documenting Kaz’s arranged marriage journey, she accompanies him to a sort of speed-matchmaking where a group of singles finds someone to marry within a group—something akin to speed-dating, we suppose. She is also there when Kaz’s parents set him up with a girl, and they are talking over Skype. Sajal Aly is so graceful on screen, and we just cannot look away from the beauty in her eyes. Turns out, even though she is less than interested when talking to Kaz, neither he nor his parents get the hint, and they think it is her being shy. This is somehow enough for them to fix the wedding.
Meanwhile, in Zoe’s life, she finds that her sister’s husband is cheating, which has been devastating for the latter, not to mention that she can’t leave him because of the children. This affects Zoe a lot, and when she says something a little unsavory when filming Kaz telling her he is engaged, he tells her that she needs a vacation in Pakistan. Kaz is getting married in a month, and it is time for the next stage of the drama. The entire family goes to Pakistan for the wedding, along with Zoe and her mother. They meet the bride, Maymouna, and her family there. Zoe wants to shoot a video with the bride and groom, and it is as uncomfortable as we would think. Two people who clearly don’t love each other but have accepted to adjust on the basis of each other’s superficial qualities. It is never a good argument that arranged marriages have a lesser chance of divorce; hence they are better. When a person goes in without any expectations, they are not likely to have any complaints. But that is not how relationships are built. However, it is going to be ages before we learn that.
But back to the wedding celebrations: Kaz takes Zoe to the market to give her a tour of the place. They come closer through some shopping, discussion of their cultural differences, and getting to understand each other more. When they are at a restaurant for dinner, it comes up that Zoe was Kaz’s first kiss. They also talk about Jamila, Kaz’s sister, who married outside her race. This had broken the hearts of her entire family to the point that her grandfather passed away just a week later. Jamila did not attend his funeral because she wanted her husband to come with her and be treated with respect, but her family did not agree to make that concession. Kaz is going for an arranged marriage because he does not want to bring further dishonor to his family. Now, we did say that Kaz was awful, but this is just the garden variety kind of awful. Of course, he blamed his sister for the monstrosity of the events instead of recognizing how obtuse his parents were. But then, why wouldn’t he do that? Men in Asian families are treated like demigods, and they seldom try to challenge the status quo with discernment of what is right and what is wrong. But the reason he gives Zoe is that of culture and how he lives in a racist country.
On the night of the mehendi, Kaz and Zoe get to see a different side of Maymouna. She is a far more liberal and fun person than either Kaz or Zoe could ever hope to be. When the entire place is caught up in the party, these two sneak out and spend some time by themselves. Seeing Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s cameo was nice. But the crux of the matter is that Kaz and Zoe are getting closer than they should. Kaz tells her that he never forgot that she was his first kiss—another thing he shouldn’t have bothered saying.
The next day, a few hours before the wedding, Zoe asks Kaz for a video. When they are talking, she tells him that she doesn’t want him to marry someone he doesn’t want to. This, right here, is why we thought Zoe was awful. She was fine with Kaz’s decision until now, but now that her own feelings are involved, she is expressing the worst opinion at the worst time, not caring about the effect it could have on so many people. She should have continued maintaining her distance. But in addition to being awful, we also think she might be a bit dim because she wants to be a part of his family after seeing the absolute misogyny of their system. However, Kaz tells her that this is what he wants to do and calls her out for her own dating choices. Can women on screen please have different problems than just the underwhelming men they choose to date?
Cut to the wedding: Maymouna doesn’t look very happy, but nobody notices. Either way, the promises are made, and the contracts are signed. The wedding is done, and they all go back to Britain. It was all so irritating, but we were just thinking how a movie helmed by Jeremy Garelick, the director of “Murder Mystery 2,” had much better ethnic fashion and music than one directed by Shekhar Kapoor, who is an Indian.
After The Wedding
Back in Britain, Kaz is trying to settle in with Maymouna, and Zoe starts dating James, the vet that her mother had been trying to set her up with. The arranged marriage hype has rubbed off on Zoe, and she is with James because she thinks of him as the dependable choice. But the fact doesn’t stay hidden from him for too long. On the day of the film screening, Kaz and his entire family are there. While they are watching the movie, Zoe steps out, and James comes to meet her. He breaks up with her because, unlike Zoe, he doesn’t want to settle in life or be anybody’s Plan B. The guy who was initially projected as the loser turned out to have far more grit and is a lot more sensible than Zoe or Kaz, and we love him for that. But going back, the film has some footage of Jamila, where she speaks about how she wishes to be back with her family. Once the screening is done, Kaz rightfully points out that Zoe should not have done that without asking his family. She wasn’t given access to that part of the story. If she really wanted to talk about the negatives of arranged marriage, she should have chosen a different family that would have given her permission to do so. But like any entitled white person, Zoe doesn’t see why this could be humiliating for Kaz’s family, not realizing that it isn’t her decision to make.
However, the women in Kaz’s family seem happy with the documentary. We can understand this. Women’s voices in Asian households are often ignored. It is possible that they had a softer perspective on what Jamila did, but they never got to voice it. Watching it on screen was what they had wanted to say for a long time. But this still doesn’t negate Zoe’s wrongs. Zoe also tells her mother that she and James broke up. She is annoyed because she thinks that James is the “solution” to Zoe’s problem. Zoe rightfully questions her mother about whether she values her less if she is not dating. Finally, her mother admits that she doesn’t want her daughter to be lonely. Maybe she still doesn’t know of the loneliness that breeds in most Indian and Pakistani families due to the way society is structured.
‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ Ending Explained: Do Kaz And Maymouna Stay Together?
That night, Maymouna admits to Kaz that she has been having an affair and that she was married to her parents without wanting to be. She came to Britain to try and live the life she wanted, and Kaz was the only way to do that. Come, Eid, Cath, and Zoe, go to the Khans for lunch. Kaz is there without Maymouna, and he tells his family everything. He and Maymouna have gotten a divorce, and she is preparing to tell her parents how she wants to live her life. He also brings Jamila to the house, and it is indeed a tearful reunion, with her coming back with her daughter.
It literally took everything falling apart for the family to see the merit of leading a different kind of life, but here they are. And this is what we meant by the white savior complex. Zoe’s use of their story without their permission brought the family together. But now that things are okay, Kaz tries to meet Zoe and looks for her all over, only to find her in the treehouse. Both of them kiss, and that is the most awkward and uncomfortable kiss we might have seen on TV. These two only had “friendship chemistry.” They would not make good lovers. In the end credits of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?,” we see that everything’s alright. Maymouna has become a human rights lawyer, and her parents are proud of her. Cath is still enjoying the culture, and the world is rosy again.
The writer certainly has a romanticized view of families, and all the racism and misogyny are not a real problem but part of the “fun” of the process. It wasn’t lost on us that in the movie, Kaz is 32 years old, and Maymouna is 22. Such a match was arranged, and nobody once stopped to think about or ask Maymouna what she wanted. It was all about Kaz’s “choice.” South Asian stories need to be told on the English screen, but we need better storytellers. Until then, it is all going to be a superficial reading of “culture, color, and exoticity.”