Polite Society: How it Brings Together a Number of Genres and Subjects

The tale of a schoolgirl fascinated with stunts who sets out to sabotage her sister's wedding preparations in order to win her older sister's heart.

Teenage British-Pakistani Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) enlists the aid of her friends to prevent the wedding and prevent her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from wasting her life away after learning that Lena has fallen in love and desires to get married. Although there have been numerous movies about getting married throughout the history of cinema, Polite Society likely featured the most high-octane power and martial arts.

With its frantic cinematic aesthetic and unbelievable fight sequences, British writer-director Nida Manzoor’s destructive launch is easily capable of emulating the cult success of Edgar Wright’s 2010 action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and garnering a fully dedicated audience. In fact, without the movie ever appearing derivative or disjointed, audiences are also reminded at various times and occasionally simultaneously of Kill Bill, Get Out, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and plenty of other blockbusters. The fact that Polite Society successfully combines a variety of genres and subjects shows how talented Manzoor is both in front as well as behind the camera.

It is a movie about sisterhood and family. Ria, a young person who wants to be a stuntwoman, and her admiration for her older sister are at the centre of everything. Notwithstanding the fact that British South Asians are among the largest minority groups in the UK and yet the popularity of films like East is East and Bend it Like Beckham, there haven’t been many films specifically on them. The interactions of two very different families from that group are highlighted in Polite Society: Raheela (Nimra Bucha) and her kid Salim (Akshay Khanna), who is about to marry Lena, and the Khan girls and both of their parents. Salim is the mummy’s boy, while Raheela is the controlling mother. In contrast to the Khans, whose parents struggle to balance supporting their independent daughters’ ambitions and dreams with keeping their family in line with society’s standards of convention and dignity, they exhibit a disturbing co-dependency and love. The film exposes the harmful effects of these cultural challenges, from the manner in which Ria’s teacher urges her to pursue a profession in medicine rather than what she is enthusiastic about, to the way older individuals make assumptions about the relationship status and future prospects of junior characters.

Lena decides to wed Salim, a charming and accomplished geneticist, rather than being forced into an unfavourable union by her parents, which would be usual for a movie with British South Asian characters. When writing the screenplay over the years, Manzoor was insistent about not including an arranged marriage plotline in spite of pressure from numerous film industry executives to do so. It is an innovative decision that gives the story more depth. It would have been much easier for viewers to support a union in which Lena has little say. Ria’s tactics first look more suspicious given that she is hell-bent on ruining a relationship in which her sister appears to be enamoured.

Polite Society is a coming-of-age tale among other things. Ria is a young woman. She can be childish and arrogant. She attempts to frame Salim for sexual misconduct at a certain point by hiding condoms loaded with hand lotion when she runs out of information about him. She also makes for a hilariously untrustworthy storyteller. The movie plays up the drama and raised stakes by having her engage in overly theatrical stare-downs and fantasy combat scenes in which she faces off against a variety of foes, including the school bullies, sadistic beauticians, disapproving aunts, and her sister’s future mother-in-law. She also possesses a positive outlook and zeal for life, which are evident in her unrelenting pursuit of becoming a stuntwoman and her one-sided communication with her hero.

Raheela is an intriguing antagonist in a movie about destroying the patriarchy. The idea of a matriarch defending the patriarchy amuses Manzoor. The persona appears to be liberal, which makes her stand out from other South Asian women who tend to be more conservative-minded. She doesn’t mind, for instance, if her future daughter-in-law stays the night before being married. She lectures Salim and Lena on how women shouldn’t be forced to conceal their bodies,” at one point. Without revealing too much, she has no reservations about exploiting another woman’s body against her will in order to further her objectives.

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