Andrea’s Angle | “Polite Society” – Jane Austen Meets Bollywood Fun
From the second I saw the trailers for this movie, I wanted to see it. It looked like a combination of several types of films I like, incorporating martial arts and Bollywood style. It looked fun. After watching the movie, I can tell you that I found it wonderfully subversive of female roles, martial arts flicks, and Bollywood movies. The film is Jane Austen meets Bollywood, and it is ridiculously fun with wonderful performances and lots of humor.
In Polite Society, directed and written by Nida Manzoor, the merry mash-up of sisterly affection, parental disappointment, and bold action follows martial artist in training Ria Khan (Pria Kansara), who believes she must save her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends Alba (Ella Bruccoleri), Clara (Seraphina Beh), and even her high school foe, Kovacs (Shona Babayemi), Ria attempts to thwart her future brother-in-law Salim (Akshay Khanna) and his mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha) by pulling off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of independence and sisterhood.
For me, there are several aspects of this film that delighted me. As I absorbed the high drama and action of the movie, I fell in love with the energy of the characters. In the film, Ria is convinced her sister needs her, not only because of her impending nuptials but also because she seems to have given up her dreams for the man she is marrying. The film is wonderfully subversive as it takes traditional female roles and turns them on their head. The husband-to-be, Salim, seems perfect, the prince to save Lena from all her troubles, but instead, he becomes Ria’s foe. His mother is painted as a supportive, caring mother but in the end, even she doesn’t like the traditional role she is given and tries to supersede it for a different destiny. Lena seems to be following the traditional role, but her independent streak may yet prevent her from following that path. Ria is feisty, over the top, dramatic, and a delight to watch on screen as she tries to be so much more than others want her to be. She never gives up her identity or her dreams. The subversive nature of the female tropes is part of what makes this so gloriously delightful.
The film does more than subvert the traditional female tropes. It also pokes fun at and changes up the typical martial arts concepts in similar films. In this film, everyone seems able to fight, which is part of the humor as the film pokes fun at martial arts films. But one of the ways it subverts the typical is that Ria struggles to succeed in her fights. While she gets up and fights again each time, she is not terribly proficient, unlike most films of this type. And while the film leans into its Bollywood roots, Ria’s family is far from traditional, as her parents let her pursue her dreams even when they don’t understand. They encourage Lena to marry, but they also truly want her to be happy, not just married.
The movie is packed with humor. I highly doubt I caught every cultural reference, but I could enjoy the over-the-top drama of Ria and her exploits, each plan crazy, ill-advised, but ridiculously funny. The fight between her and Kovacs is hilarious, especially when Ria lands on her face. It is highly entertaining when Ria confronts Rahella, Salim’s mother. There are moments of pure genius in the expressions on Rahella’s face. The dialogue between Ria and Lena is funny and will make you laugh, even when the pair are at odds. And while Ria’s plans are crazy, they are also delightfully fun.
The performances are what truly make this film shine. Priya Kansura is funny, energetic, and emotional as Ria. She portrays her character with heart and courage, even in the face of defeat. The dynamic between her and Ritu Arya, who plays Lena, is warm and connected. The pair are believable as sisters. Ritu Arya is wonderful as Lena, portraying the character as independent and strong. I also found the actors playing their parents warm and loving. Both Jeff Mirza, who plays their father, and Shobu Kapoor, as their mother, gave fantastic performances. You will fall in love with Ria’s crew, Alba (Ella Bruccoleri), Clara (Seraphina Beh), and Kovacs (Shona Babayemi), and even though Kovacs starts out as her foe, she comes through in a pinch, and the actress does a great job in transforming her character into a friend. Akshay Khanna as Salim is charismatic and charming. But the true highlight is Nimra Bucha as Raheela, the true opposite of Ria in every way. She is brilliant as a woman who has been thwarted in what she truly wanted out of life. And she is gloriously funny when she tries to prevent Ria from ruining her plans. The pair of them are phenomenal in contrast.
While there are little things that you can pick at, the film overall is quite good. There are moments that are predictable, but there are plenty of surprises, too, especially the more you consider the film and its subversive ideas. The female roles are turned upside down, and so too are the martial arts tropes. If you love martial arts films, Bollywood style, or Jane Austen, this is the movie for you. The performances are incredible, especially Priya Kansura and Nimra Bucha. It is fun, full of humor, action, and drama. It might feel over the top, but it’s in all the best ways. The energy of the film will keep you riveted to the screen, and the ending will leave you satisfied. It is glorious fun, changes the ideas of what to expect from a Bollywood-style movie, and does so with fantastic style. On top of all that, the music is entrancing and made me want to buy the soundtrack. I suggest you check out this movie if you want to be entertained.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 kicks.
Official Website: Polite Society | Official Website | April 28 2023
POLITE SOCIETY is a London-set anarchic action comedy that follows Ria Khan, a bolshy schoolgirl and martial artist-in-training who dreams of becoming a world-renowned stunt woman. When Ria witnesses her big sister Lena give up on her dreams by dropping out of art school and getting engaged, Ria’s world is shaken. She believes she must save her sister from the shackles of marriage in the only way she knows how, by enlisting the help of her friends and attempting to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of freedom and sisterhood. POLITE SOCIETY is a merry mash-up of sisterly affection, parental disappointment, and bold and bloody action.
POLITE SOCIETY opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, April 28, 2023.
ONE-LINER: Big Trouble, Little Sister.