The South Asian diaspora has been up for a treat recently with all the love for South Asian representation in shows like Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever or Ms. Marvel Recently, Shekhar Kapoor’s What’s Love Got To Do With It? was also a Pakistani-English film, and Polite Society joins this list of brown meets world. At first impression, Polite Society looks like today’s version of Bend It Like Beckham, but it’s entirely different save for the cultural similarities and English slang. Polite Society is primarily a film about sisters, and then everything else follows. As a close sister myself, I found myself really enjoying this fantasy take on a story about what a younger sibling goes through when her sister leaves her home.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Polite Society’?
Ria and Lena are the inseparable Khan sisters. Ria is in school, aspiring to become a stuntwoman, whereas Lena has just dropped out of art school. She feels she doesn’t have the talent to become an artist, but Ria is determined to bring Lena out of her rut and asks her to help her make her YouTube videos to show off her stunting skills. She calls herself “The Fury” and sends these videos to her favorite stuntwoman, Eunice, along with relentless emails in the hope of becoming an intern under her soon. Lena, who is battling her own demons, finds some light in making these videos for Ria. School is a nightmare for Ria and her two friends, Alba and Clara, because nobody believes Ria can really be a stuntwoman, and she’s kind of the class clown. Her nemesis happens to be a stronger and taller Kovacs, whom we’ll come back to later. Unfortunately, Kovacs is not the only one making Ria’s life hell; even her teacher is racist and suggests Ria become a doctor, “a noble profession” for the brown family.
Fatima, Ria, and Lena’s mom is a socialite who is embarrassed by her daughter’s choices but continues to go for tea with her “friends” to show face. Raheela (clearly, this woman is evil; we remember what she was like in Ms. Marvel!). One of the women shows a special interest in Lena, though. They’re quickly invited to Raheela’s home for a grand Eid dinner. Ria and Lena are clearly uninterested in heading there, but the mothers have a separate ulterior motive. Raheela wants to set up her son Salim with Lena. Ria sees through Raheela immediately, and she doesn’t want her sister to waste away her life as someone’s trophy wife. Lena and Salim are quick to find interest in each other, and Ria’s blood boils even at the thought of them together. Lena still has a lot to achieve in life; she needs to be an artist.
Salim is like a shark; after all, he’s looking for a wife among all the young women of the town. He’s also a spoilt mama’s boy, having a strange closeness to his mother that Ria does not approve of. Unfortunately for her, though, Lena is quick to fall head over heels for Salim. They quickly start hanging out a lot, and Lena begins to neglect her little sister’s requests to make videos and even do her own art. Soon, Salim begins to influence Lena’s thoughts about her art and what she should think about doing next. Salim begins to make it look like he knows what’s best for Lena, and she sways aimlessly because she’s a lost puppy who needs to find her way back to her art. Only Ria can see this, and she’s determined to make it happen ASAP! Now, Ria’s big plan is to find dirt on Salim so she can prove he’s not the right guy for Lena. Ria and her friends hilariously hack into Salim’s laptop but find absolutely nothing about him. In fact, he is a great guy and helps babies in need. Oh, we forgot to mention that he’s also a doctor doing birth care research. Clara and Alba begin to wonder if Lena is making the right decision.
Maybe it’s Ria’s imaginative mind or her dream of becoming a stuntwoman that makes her begin to see through Salim’s facade. Fatima begins to understand that Ria is behaving the way she is because she doesn’t want to let go of her sister, who plans on moving to Singapore after marriage. Lena and Ria are very close and always have each other’s backs, but with Salim in the picture, things are changing. In the middle of laptop hacking, Ria ended up talking to Salim, which made Lena furious. Lena and Ria have the biggest physical fight at this point, breaking doors and photographs, cracking each other’s foreheads, and drawing blood. Lena warns Ria yet again not to trouble Salim again. In the meantime, they also take a dig at each other’s consciences. Ria tells Lena that she shouldn’t marry a man who is only interested in her because she’s “kind.” Lena has fallen head over heels for Salim, and now they’re engaged, leaving Ria with no choice but to plant something herself in Salim’s house.
She’s caught by Raheela, and things get ugly for Ria, but she’s found a box of evidence under Salim’s bed. Ria shows the family a photo of Salim married to another woman, but to her surprise, they already know about it. The woman had died in childbirth, and that’s why Salim’s research is now to make sure such tragedies never occur. Now Lena is spending more time with Salim and even visiting their house often. One night, Lena has a heavy flow of her period at the Shah house, and Salim isn’t bothered by it at all. Lena is weirded out when she finds out that he told Raheela, who offers her some iron supplements for her heavy flow. Lena is quick to accept because Raheela is open-minded and willing to look after Lena, but things are extremely messed up. Ria’s friends have stopped working with her because she lashes out at them for trying to help her get out of the delusion that Salim is a bad man. School’s not great for Ria because of this, and she’s beginning to lose her mental strength. Fatima sends Ria to apologize for her behavior, and Raheela has a torture table ready for her. Ria is made to get a manicure, and soon the worst step of it all is waxing. Ria manages to escape the women, who also happen to be karate experts like herself, as they run behind her into the huge Shah mansion. Ria finds herself in a secret room in the basement, and to her utter shock, she discovers that Salim has scanned all the women who were at the Eid party to check their uteruses. She was right all along: Salim is a weirdo.
‘Polite Society’ Ending Explained: Is Ria Successful At Breaking Lena And Salim Up?
Ria needs the help of her friends again to make sure that Lena doesn’t fall into Salim’s trap. She apologizes to them, and they reconcile because an adventure is always fun. They make a plan to kidnap Lena at her own wedding. Everything is set into motion as Ria performs a Bollywood dance number, hilariously translating to “killed me” in her green anarkali, while the other two head up to kidnap her sister. Kovacs agreed to help them too and joined them by driving them there, making her part of the gang too. Ria’s plan is going great until Raheela is certain there is something wrong and interferes. She catches Ria, and another action sequence ensues, but this time the kicks are especially fascinating thanks to the twirls of the dress Ria is wearing. Raheela is too strong for Ria, and she’s tied to a chair in Lena’s bridal suite while Raheela searches for her daughter-in-law to be. Ria’s friends, who were told to escape with Lena, return for Ria, leaving Lena with Raheela. Lena feels groggy and disoriented. She begins to see odd visions as she gets taken to the stage to be married.
Kovacs beats up the bodyguard with a fire extinguisher, and Ria grabs his gun to scare everybody in the building like a true Bollywood hero. She heads down quickly before the ceremony takes place and shoots at the ceiling to get them to stop. Raheela finally reveals her big plans to everyone in attendance. Ria had already heard this confession when they had their little fight, but now her parents and, more importantly, Lena heard it too. Nobody believes Ria again and is just afraid of her with the gun. Raheela had admitted her plans of cloning herself and being “reborn” quite literally through Lena’s perfect womb to Ria back in the bridal suite. This is why Salim had done all the research on all the girls at the Eid party. Now Ria tells the crowd the Shah plan, and Lena admits she remembers him doing something to her when she was in their house the night before she had her heavy flow, and this turns the tables. Fighting ensues, and yet again, I still can’t understand how everybody can fight like “Karate kid” except Salim. Ria admits that she wanted to keep her sister from getting married for selfish reasons. She didn’t want to lose the one person who believed in her more than herself, but she also didn’t want Lena to die of childbirth, especially if it was another Raheela coming out of her. Ria and Lena try to escape, but Raheela and Salim catch them before they get in the car. Raheela calls Ria worthless and chokes her till she’s unconscious, or so we think. Ria is not worthless; she’s the Fury, and she will do anything to save her sister from these monsters! (Oh, how this closeness is rarely depicted on screen.) Ria finally masters the reverse spin kick that she has been trying to do for all these months and puts Raheela on the floor. Lena headbutts Salim and kicks him in the core, spewing insults he deserves to hear until Ria manages to get her, and they escape.
In Kovac’s car, Ria tells Lena that her big plan was to take Lena to a “safe house,” probably just a vacation home that Alba’s family-owned. Ria’s bought all the art supplies Lena needs to kick-start her return to the art world. Lena agrees to ruminate on the idea, but first, they get food. As they discuss Ria’s impeccable spin kick, Lena gets an idea. This costume and the way Ria looks right now would be the perfect way to impress Eunice. They prepare to take a video, but to their surprise, Ria receives a message from Eunice herself! She’s seen all of Ria’s videos and agrees with Lena that she has the potential to be the best! Eunice wants to have brunch with Ria, and the sisters have a dance party in the middle of nowhere, making a song on the word brunch (how delightful). Polite Society ends with Lena taking Ria’s final video to impress Eunice with the spin kick. We see Lena get ready to shoot the video, maybe even more than Ria itself, meaning she’s getting ready to face the world with her sister again. Ready to do whatever it takes for both of their successes.
Ria and Lena’s closeness is something that really stands out in Polite Society because we’re so often used to seeing sibling rivalries on screen, although these two did draw blood somewhere in between. It’s a film about support and love from the one person who really understands and gets you and would go through anything to save you. There are a lot of flaws in the film as far as the script goes, but other than that, Polite Society is a great film about sibling bonding with a mix of Bollywood masala and English humor that works really well.