“Polite Society” is a Riotous Tribute to Sisterhood

The film’s highlight is the tumultuous but always-loving relationship between sisters Ria and Lena.

“Polite Society” is a Riotous Tribute to Sisterhood
Source: IMDB

With a frenetic song playing in the background, the opening visuals of “Polite Society” switch between the main character, Ria, angrily weaving her bike through the cramped streets of London, and her sister, Lena, angrily tearing at her canvas, waiting for her art to come out the way it used to. The title “Polite Society” appears on the screen thrice: in Roman script, in Devanagari and in Nastaliq, a clear nod to Bollywood films. 

Ria (Priya Kansara) is an aspiring stuntwoman. We view the world through her eyes in the film, which is full of stereotypical sound effects (an eagle screeching, wind blowing intensely in the background at a standoff), bright colors, a thrumming soundtrack and classic hero vs. villain beats. Ria’s ultimate challenge as an aspiring stuntwoman is her flying kick, which she is never quite able to land, and it becomes a motif throughout the film as she seeks to find the reason why the too-good-to-be-true Salim (Akshay Khanna) is the wrong match for her sister, Lena (Ritu Arya).

The film’s highlight is the tumultuous but always-loving relationship between Ria and Lena, as they alternate between snapping at each other one second, and encouraging each other’s dreams and hopes earnestly in the next — the epitome of any sibling relationship. Although they often find themselves at odds, they continue to try to reach each other, as Ria attempts to convince Lena that something is off with Salim, and Lena works to convince Ria that she is happy with her choice.

While the relationship between Ria and Lena is clearly the main focus of the film, the second act involves a twist:  Ria discovers that Raheela (Nimra Bucha), Lena’s future mother-in-law, wants to clone herself through a perfect host (Lena) so that she may have another chance at life. This particular plot point was clearly a gesture towards recognizing the ways in which some women, especially South Asian Muslim women, feel restricted in what they can achieve, aside from a good marriage and raising children. While exciting, the twist does shift the film away from its original charm, as the stakes become even more dire.

Despite the new threat to Ria and Lena’s relationship — and even their lives —  “Polite Society” finishes in a satisfying flourish at Lena’s wedding, with Ria performing a dance to “Maar Dala” (a very on-the-nose Bollywood reference), and a thrilling fight between Ria and Lena and all of Raheela’s hired guns. Ria and Lena twirl in their lehengas and bridal attire as they literally punch their way through the standards and expectations set for them. Even their parents get involved,  roaring as they fling chairs and table decorations at Raheela for daring to hurt their daughters. 

Both Kansara and Arya portray the love-hate relationship between sisters very well, and newcomer Kansara is a charismatic lead with a confidence you can’t help but root for. Overall, “Polite Society” is a strong feature debut from director Nida Manzoor, best described as a riotous and ultimately heart-warming tribute to sisterhood.

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Director Nida Mansoor’s debut feature film “Polite Society,” an “exuberant genre mash-up” about high school martial arts enthusiast Ria who tries to prevent her sister’s upcoming marriage, had its theatrical release in April. Reviews from critics and fans have been mainly positive. In a Critic…
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“Ria Khan believes that she must save her older sister Lena from her impending marriage. After enlisting her friends’ help, she attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists, in the name of independence and sisterhood.” “Polite Society,” written and directed by “We Are Lady Part…

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