In South Asian cultures, marriage is the Rome that all roads lead to. Girls, in most Indian families, are conditioned from a very young age to believe that marriage is their final destination and that anything they do or aspire to be should centre around it. And while it is considered a sacred institution, marriage, more often than not, is a source of trauma, abuse, violence and restrictive patriarchal statutes for women. For many of us, it has become this treacherous trap we need to save ourselves from at the expense of familial disappointment.
Protagonist Ria Khan from the upcoming action comedy, 'Polite Society' feels the same way. Directed by Nida Manzoor, the film is a love story between two sisters; Ria, who's training to become a stunt woman and her elder sister Lena, who is an artist but is giving up on her craft for a semi-arranged marriage to a 'sleazebag, mama's boy'. And that is provokingly unacceptable to Ria to the end that she plans to infiltrate and stop this 'abomination' of a wedding.
Polite Society is a blend of Bollywood and Jackie Chan movies that the director grew up loving. She calls the over-the-top action sequences in the film a representation of the volatility of teenage years and how visceral it can be when you're fighting with your sibling that you have always idolized. The film is a celebration of South Asian culture that subverts the expressions of love from a romantic relationship to the bond of sisterhood. It's a vibrant and funny story of a British-Pakistani family tackling patriarchal structures and societal expectations in the best way possible — with flying jump kicks.
The loving relationship between Ria and Leena that's pulled apart by the shreds in the plot because of their opposing views on marriage lies at the core of one the most charged-up discourses in the feminist movement of the times. On one end, there are people who see marriage as a tool of patriarchy to entrap cis, hetero women into a lifetime of unpaid physical and emotional labour, and on the other are those who simply think of it as a form of companionship. There are also conflicting arguments about marriage and feminism being about personal choice which is countered by how truly informed those choices are in a misogynistic world that shapes the very notion of what happiness is for women.
Polite Society is a great projection of these deeper issues underlying women's agencies and identities and explores how we can lift each other up without driving each other away. What unfolds is an action-packed comedy through the lens of sisterhood, with all the added grandeur of a South Asian wedding.
The film comes out on the 28th of April in India. You can watch the trailer below.
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