Interview With Mim Shaikh: 'When People Who Are Darker Skinned Watch This Back, They Can See Themselves'
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Interview With Mim Shaikh: ‘When People Who Are Darker Skinned Watch This Back, They Can See Themselves’

Ahead of the release of What's Love Got To Do With It

Broadcaster, actor and man of varied interests Mim Shaikh loves the impressionists – and Drake. Read our interview with him ahead of his new film, What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Interview With Actor Mim Shaikh

Mim Shaikh

Hi Mim, tell us a little about What’s Love Got To Do With It? – what can we expect?

Oh, it’s such a beautiful synergy of a film. It fuses British and Pakistani cultures together and offers such a nice, modern reflection of multicultural Britain. Expect love, romance, cultural nuances and cheeky one liners both for English audiences and audiences who understand Urdu, the native language of Pakistan.

The film focuses on arranged marriage, right? How’s that handled?

The film focuses on such an archaic but relevant issue – arranged marriage – and this is what sets this romantic-comedy apart from any other British film I have seen. The fusion of the two cultures is depicted beautifully through the writing of Jemima Khan. Her lived experiences must have informed such nuanced pieces of culture which are reflected throughout the entirety of the film. It’s smart and it’s sweet. I think it will be a real treat for British audiences to enjoy.

And did you get to travel much for your role?

The film was set in London, so there was not that much travel involved. But we all know what London traffic is like, so it did feel like it was long…

And what was it like actually working on the film?

My finest acting experience so far… From being picked up in an S-Class Mercedes Benz, to having the best curry for lunch, it was a real pleasure to be working on this film.

But it was also a little strange, as it was being shot around the outbreak of covid-19. We were all asked to do five to six covid tests a week to make sure everyone was safe and fit for working in a social space.

And then at the same time, I was getting to meticulously learn from people like Emma Thompson and Shabana Azmi. They have both had so much experience working in film. It was such a rare and valuable experience to learn through them directly on set.

You’ve done a lot of amazing work to boost South Asian representation in the media, particularly those with darker skin! I wondered what it was like getting this role, and then working with so many South Asians in a story that explicitly platforms that cultural experience in the UK?

For me… It’s, like – I’ve been working in the UK media industry for the last ten years. I’ve read so many screenplays. I’ve written my own. But when I read this one, I was literally in awe because of how rare something like this is.

When I found out I got the role, I don’t think I understood the magnitude of the project. It was like I knew it was going to be a decent film and good but I think I underplayed it. I was really happy, though. I told my Mum straight away that I’m going to be working with Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi. I took a picture with her and showed her and the look on her face was beautiful. She’s the biggest Bollywood film fan I have ever met.

As a multifaceted South Asian creative, you end up knowing a lot of the people who are writing material and making their own content. And it’s great, but this project just felt like it was so rare. I’ve spoken about the representation of darker skinned South Asian talent before, and when I was on set I saw myself reflected back to me through actors like Jeff Mirza and Shabana Azmi it was such a beautiful thing to witness. It means that when people who are darker skinned watch this back, they can see themselves reflected on the big-screen.

And on the topic of set – any cute stories from on set?

I got some heart shaped cookie’s made for my last day on set with the words ‘What’s Love?’ written on them. I think I ordered around 300 for the crew and cast to eat whilst they were working. I saved one in the packaging because I wanted it to be a memento but sadly it started moulding so I had to throw it away!

And finally, what are you up to at the minute? How are you relaxing – and living a life in balance?

I just finished shooting a small role in a short film called ‘Nearly Never’ which focuses on Never Events occurring in the NHS. It was nice to be back shooting something which focuses on an important theme. I’ve been fundraising recently too for charities like the National Deaf Children’s Society and Macmillan Cancer Support. I travelled to Texas for the Christmas break so I guess we are balancing things out.

Quick fire…

I’m tuning into…  You People
What I’m reading… Ethan Kross – Chatter
The last thing I watched was… Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Is the reaction from the British public to the film
Favourite painting… ‘Water Lilies’ by Claude Monet
Favourite film of all time… Enemy of the State 
Band/singer I always have on repeat… Drake
My ultimate cultural recommendation… Three Idiots
Cultural guilty pleasure… The Backstreet Boys

What’s Love Got To Do With It is out in cinemas on 24 February.