Greetings again from the darkness. If you have ever wondered what it might look like if Quentin Tarantino consulted on a modernized Pakistani version of Jane Austen … well, writer-director Nida Manzoor shows us (with no actual assistance from QT), including stylized martial arts, class warfare, and an obsession with a stuntwoman career. It’s Ms. Manzoor’s first feature film (she created the TV series “We are Lady Parts”) and she presents an extremely creative film with a balance of silly and dark themes that proves immensely entertaining.
Relative newcomer Priya Kansara stars as Ria, a private school student highly determined to achieve her goal of becoming a working stuntwoman. She remains laser-focused on this despite her teacher and parents laughing off such nonsense and re-directing her towards becoming a doctor. Ria also adores her older sister Lena (Rita Arya), although worried about her since she recently dropped out of art school and seems to be rudderless in life.
Things change quickly for everyone once rich mama’s boy/doctor Salim (Akshay Khanna) begins courting Lena. Ria senses things aren’t right with the relationship and is also convinced that Lena should resume her dreams of being artist, rather than being pursued by the handsome, rich, too-good-to-be-true suitor. Ria and her best friends Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) scheme to undercut the relationship, but they are no match for Salim’s mother (a terrific Nimra Bucha), who sports the best evil Grinch grin you’ve ever seen.
Director Manzoor divides the film into five chapters: A tale of two sisters, EID Soiree, Operation Wife Hunter, Assault on Shah mansion, and The Wedding. Each chapter offers comedy and action, and a matching of Ria’s wits and instincts against the plans and beliefs of others. Ms. Kansara impresses as an upstart female Jackie Chan with superior acting chops. She executes the physical martial arts sequences beautifully, yet also shows promise in the quieter, more intimate moments when emoting and dialogue matter. She is certainly one to watch … as is filmmaker Nida Manzoor. Anyone who can entertain at this level deserves the opportunity to do so as frequently as possible.
Opening in theaters on April 28, 2023