By: Russ Matthews
The challenge with the marketing for Polite Society is moving past the thought that this is a standard Bollywood production about two sisters.
Instead, try to give writer/director Nida Manzoor’s first feature-length project as a special category that mixes martial arts, comedy, family, and suspense thriller with Bollywood wardrobing and dance added in for good measure. That is to say that this quirky film is hard to categorise, but that should not deter audiences from seeing it in theatres; you won’t be disappointed.
Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) lives a life that exists in the reality of high school and family while having her foot placed squarely on her dream of being a stunt person. Despite her parents and teacher’s lack of support for her dreams, her older sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), has always encouraged her to follow her aspirations. This is until her older sibling becomes the focus of one of the wealthiest young men in their community. Their relationship escalates quickly and eventually involves a marriage of epic proportions. Yet, Ria has her suspicions that things are not as they seem with her future brother-in-law and his controlling mother, Raheela Shah (Nimra Bucha). Even though her family is celebrating the forthcoming nuptials, the young martial artist decides to investigate her sister’s future family and has to figure out how to inform Lena about the possible dangers she will face.
Initially, the story has a Scott Pilgrim vs. the World meets Bollywood comedic feel to it. The viewer must determine what is happening in the real world and what is merely happening in the imagination of a teenage girl. Once you can work through these cinematic category mash-ups, the ride becomes an enjoyable mix of action, comedy, and family dysfunction. Regardless of how much the audience knows of the dynamics of Pakistani families, the screenplay makes every aspect of the story accessible despite stretching the believability of the underlying devious plans that the lead character and her two friends rooted out. The action doesn’t get to the level of John Wick, but the fight scenes do take this up a notch from the standard action comedy in cinemas.
Priya Kansara makes the whole story work. Her performance is a marvellous mix of martial arts, humour, and as an expression of her love for her sister. She is brilliantly partnered with her sidekicks, Seraphina Beh and Ella Bruccoleri, who deliver some of the best slapstick elements in film in years. Granted, veteran talents like Nimra Bucha (Ms Marvel) and Ritu Arya (Red Notice) add depth and richness to the film. Still, the young talent carries this action-packed narrative through to the unbelievable ending. Polite Society was an unexpected joy and worth discovering while it is still in theatres.
The confronting aspect of this movie is how devoted Ria is to her sister. Her commitment to Lena’s safety is commendable, but it does make her out to be mad at times. Yet, she wasn’t as concerned with her reputation as much as she wanted to protect her older sibling.
The confrontational aspect is asking yourself whether you would do the same for your family. Everyone has a different response when it comes to the idea of family. For some, it will bring a smile to their lips, while others get an ulcer merely thinking of their siblings, and for others, it will cause tears to well up in their eyes. Polite Society does depict the best and worst of the family experience. Yet, it always holds the value of family in high regard. It is a bittersweet gift that is given to us by God.
Regardless of your personal reality with your family, have you taken the time to show your parents, children, and extended family appreciation for the blessing they are to you?
We love because he [God] first loved us. – 1 John 4:19
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.