Jemima Khan says Royal marriage inspired scene in her film 'What's Love Got To Do With It?'

  • Journalist and screenwriter Jemima Khan talks to ITV News Central journalist Ciaran Fitzpatrick about her new film 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' and why she chose to promote it in the Midlands

Arranged marriages were "the norm" in the Royal Family until very recently, according to filmmaker Jemima Khan.

While promoting 'What's Love Got To Do With It?', starring Lily James, Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi, she told ITV News Central that a scene in the movie is a "direct reference" to the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

In 1981, during their first post-engagement interview, when asked if he is in love, the King replied with "whatever love is."

It was in 1981 when the now King Charles and Princess Diana announced their engagement, where Charles gave the now famous remark. Credit: PA

"That scene in particular was a recreation of that famous engagement," said the screenwriter. "I was reflecting on how it was only pretty recent where it was the norm for certainly the Royal Family in this country."

Her debut film, which is receiving rave reviews, tells the story of documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James), an unlucky-in-love Londoner who learns her childhood friend has opted for an arranged marriage.

She convinces him to let her capture that journey for her next project, following his family to Pakistan with the chosen bride (Sajal Aly in her first major English speaking role).

Khan, who used to be married to former Pakistani Prime Minister and world class cricketer Imran Khan, chose to promote the film outside of London because of the large British South Asian communities in Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford.

"It's [the Midlands] quite a well trodden path for me as I used to come here a lot to fundraise for my ex-husband's cancer hospital in Lahore," said Khan. "It was always part of the regular tour, and we want as many people as possible to see the film."

The inspiration for the film came from her life in Pakistan. She lived in a house with her ex-husband's father and all his family for ten years, where their marriage was the "only non-arranged marriage in the whole family history."

Everyone she met was going through the process of 'assisted marriage' which she described as "a committee of family members selecting candidates who were appropriate, and introducing them and the process would go from there."

She became interested in how her own pre-conceptions of arranged marriage changed over that period.

The film premise came when she returned to the UK and her friends in their 30s were thinking of having children. She would say 'if your parents or family arranged a marriage for you, who would they choose and would it work?'

Jemima Khan on how a scene from her film was inspired by the relationship between Charles and Diana

Dame Emma Thompson plays Zoe's mum, Cath. She is an overbearing parent, intended to represent the British people who do not understand arranged marriage and its processes.

Khan described one of her highlights of the film's creation was a "script meeting" walking around Hampstead Heath with Emma Thompson who "represents a generation who may not have caught up with the lingo, terminology...but she is well intentioned and gets it wrong all the time."

"We see this a lot. We see people inadvertently miss-stepping up all the time... but the Pakistani family next door are aspirational to her."

It was important for Khan to give an accurate depiction of Lahore. She wanted to show the "fun times Lahore," saying some of the parties she went to were "wilder than I'd seen in London."

"I was more interested in a more vibrant, colourful, hospitable, fun Pakistan than the Zero Dark Thirty Pakistan which is a little more sinister."