Directed by Nida Manzoor, the new British action comedy will be releasing across the US on April 28
South Asian characters are often relegated to shop owners and terrorists, token friends to the white leads. It meant everything to me to center the film around a South Asian girl – who is flawed and funny and kicks ass: Nida Manzoor
A rough storyline of upcoming British action comedy ‘Polite Society’ may give you glimpses of ‘Bend it Like Beckham.’ A young Brit-Indian girl who aspires to be a soccer player much to the dismay of her conservative Punjabi family.
Polite Society takes the theme of first and second generation of immigrants and their dreams forward and depicts it in a relatable manner. Directed by Nida Manzoor, the movie stars Priya Kansara who appeared in the hit Netflix series ‘Bridgerton.’
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British television writer Manzoor makes her feature film debut with a story that may strike a chord with most immigrant households across the world where South Asian cultural mindsets often clash with the dreams of youngsters growing up in a Western world.
Manzoor’s own background as a British of Pakistani descent may have contributed towards adding that layer of empathy and pathos to the story. Cultural and traditional similarities in the sub-continent make the story a riveting watch for all South Asians.
Manzoor is best known as the creator, writer, and director of the acclaimed series, ‘We Are Lady Parts,’ about a Muslim female punk band. Manzoor says, “I love writing comedy. It’s my go-to form of expression when I put pen to paper, my most natural form of storytelling. I feel comedy is the most disarming of all genres. If done well, it can make us warm to characters from different backgrounds deeply and immediately.”
Manzoor hoped the film would feel like an ode to all the films that had shaped her, but she also wanted to see something on screen she hadn’t experienced before.
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“I wanted to make this film for many reasons but predominantly so I could see a South Asian teenage girl as an action hero,” she says. “I grew up loving the spectacle of action movies but feeling extremely left out so this film is for my teenage self.”
About her tale of two sisters and their fight against traditions – a theme that has often been a subject of South Asian discourse, Manzoor says, “At the beginning of the story, you see two sisters who have the best friendship you could imagine, and over the course of the film the friendship is really pulled apart after Lena gives up her dreams to become an artist and decides to get married.”
“And so Ria tries to break up her sister’s semi-arranged marriage by performing an elaborate heist and getting into a crazy Kung-fu fight. But while it’s an over-the-top comedy, it really focusses on sisterhood and friendship because we don’t often get to see that, especially not in a film with action and dance numbers.”
The movie tells the tale of Ria Khan – a schoolgirl and martial artist who dreams of becoming a stunt woman. While Ria’s choice of profession in itself is a deviation from the traditional South Asian aspirations, the story touches further chords when it shows Ria’s older sister Lena giving up her professional and academic dreams to get engaged.
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However, the story further deviates by not just the girls’ pleading their parents to see their points of view, but reflecting the changing times, the movie shows younger sister Ria deciding to take matters in her own hand. She plans to pull off a wedding heist – all in the name of sorority, freedom and feminism 2.1 if we may say so!
Other artists in the movie include Ritu Arya of the ‘Umbrella Academy’; Shobu Kapoor of ‘We are Lady Parts’; Nimra Bucha of ‘Ms Marvel’; and Seraphina Beh of ‘Top Boy’ among others.