Ria Khan is “the fury,” or so she repeatedly claims, in Polite Society, an absolutely bonkers action-packed comedy from writer/director Nida Manzoor (We Are Lady Parts). Ria’s a schoolgirl with big dreams and no filter in Manzoor’s wild and crazy feature film directorial debut.
Don’t mess with the Khan sisters or Ria (Priya Kansara) will unleash hell. Or at least she’ll try her damnedest. She’s got her mind set on becoming a stuntwoman, even though her kicks miss more often than they connect. Never mind that her incredibly patient Pakistani parents aren’t supportive of her chosen profession or that her teacher tries to squash her dreams by suggesting she’s more suited to become a doctor. The horror! Nothing will keep Ria from her chosen profession.
Fortunately, her older sister Lena’s got her back. A recent art school dropout, Lena (Ritu Arya) is recruited to film Ria’s promotional videos and help with her training. They’re thick as thieves, and nothing’s going to come between these simpatico siblings – at least not if Ria can help it.
Ria’s also got two BFFs – Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) – in her corner who not only provide backup when the school’s resident mean girls rear their ugly heads but also when life at home gets incredibly complicated.
It seems Ria’s losing her wing woman, and that’s not something she can accept lying down. Lena decided there’s no future in art, but there is a future with Salim (Akshay Khanna). Salim’s got the looks, the money, and a successful career as a doctor. And if you can overlook his overbearing mother, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), then he’s pretty much the perfect match. So what if it’s sort of an arranged marriage? These two are wild about each other, and Lena’s all in on love and all done with art.
But Ria’s spidey senses are tingling. She takes an instant dislike to Salim, and she’s certain there’s something wonky about the entire Shah clan. The fact Lena is now wearing cardigans is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Ria, with support from Clara and Alba, puts a plan into action that will expose Salim for the fraud she suspects him to be. If that means taking on her new archnemesis Raheela in a kung-fu battle for the ages, then so be it. The Fury is on the case and the only acceptable outcome is vanquishing the Khans.
The Polite Society Ensemble and the Bottom Line
Polite Society is Priya Kansara’s feature film debut, but you’d never know it without googling it. Kansara’s a breath of fresh air, incredibly dynamic, and the camera absolutely loves her. The press notes state that she did many of her own stunts, which makes the fact this is her film debut even more impressive.
Kansara and Ritu Arya (Lila Pitts in The Umbrella Academy) sell that sibling bond; the chemistry’s there and they’re a dynamic duo on screen. The rest of the supporting cast are all outstanding, but it’s Nimra Bucha as Raheela, Ria’s main adversary, who steals scene after scene.
At its heart, Polite Society is a heartwarming story of the special bond between sisters. But there are so many crazy layers wrapped around this sibling love story that it’s super hard to define. Writer/director Manzoor didn’t settle into any genre and instead threw in a wide variety, mixing in kung-fu action, Bollywood dance numbers, romance, a smidgen of sci-fi, and over-the-top comedy. It’s a lot yet never too much.
Manzoor cites Jack Chan films, Bollywood, and The Matrix as influences, and a legitimate comparison would be 2022’s critically acclaimed Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not story-wise, but in Polite Society’s ability to successfully juggle genres without dropping a single ball.
Writer/director Nida Manzoor knocked it out of the park with Polite Society. This entertaining female-driven action comedy is fresh, funny, and fabulous.
Written/Directed By: Nida Manzoor
Starring: Priya Kansara (Bridgerton), Ritu Arya (Red Notice), Shobu Kapoor (We Are Lady Parts), Ella Bruccoleri (Call the Midwife), Seraphina Beh (Top Boy), Shona Babayemi, Nimra Bucha (Ms. Marvel), Jeff Mirza (We Are Lady Parts), and Akshay Khanna (Chloe)
Running Time: 103 minutes
Polite Society screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Focus Features has set an April 28, 2023 theatrical release date.