Nimra Bucha knew Polite Society would be ‘a winner’

Nimra Bucha knew Polite Society would be ‘a winner’

The Ms. Marvel actor said good work in Pakistan is being done by those “who have taken risks”.
02 May, 2023

Television, film and theatre actor Nimra Bucha knew the quirky, kung fu comedy Polite Society “would be a winner” the moment she read the script.

Directed by British television writer Nida Manzoor, who also made the acclaimed We Are Ladyparts, the film is about the love, conflict and sisterhood between two British Pakistani girls Ria and Lenu — with some martial arts fighting scenes in the mix.

The film, which first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, also touches on the themes of marriage, has a strong mother-in-law character, but is far from the typical saas-bahu dramas.

Speaking to Dawn, Bucha, who is currently based in London, said, “When I saw the script, I was hooked and prayed hard that I get it.” Bucha plays Raheela, the cool yet evil mother.

“I don’t know very many evil mothers in law,” she said. “I know mothers in law who are exhausted, trying to build bridges, because saas bhi kabhi bahu thee… I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the role.”

Bucha saw Raheela as someone “who is going after what she wants”. “At the heart of every antagonist is an unfulfilled, tortured person who wants to get what they want.”

She features in a major fight scene, which Bucha’s stunt coordinator described as “the boss fight”. “For a month a half, we practised this fight. I am completely underconfident physically, and rather ungraceful. Dance is not my thing, sport is not my thing… and on Pakistan TV the camera frame is chest up so you learn to flex your facial muscles but not much else.”

She said her stunt director made her feel confident and strong, and she was able to pull off the challenge.

Asked about what international films like Polite Society, the recent Jemima Khan film What’s Love Got to Do With It, and others featuring South Asian talent, Bucha said, “The struggles are still real for brown folk or any other folk in the industry. As an actor, you have so little power, it’s so random [how one gets work]. I got these roles, but for years, I didn’t get what I felt I wanted to do or that I knew how to do. Not everyone is doing what they want to do and everyone doesn’t have work all the time.”

She admitted that at times, she has taken on some “cringeworthy” projects because, as other actors say, “it is our bread and butter”. “I like to think of that as the process.”

When asked to comment on the absence of Pakistani projects on streaming networks, Bucha said, “I don’t get caught up in ‘why not us’? But I do think that when we [Pakistani filmmakers] are doing well internationally, why aren’t we seeing growth in our own country?”

She added, “I’m interested in where we are going as an industry. It’s great that we get recognition outside but why aren’t we seeing the stories we want to see [at home]? When the world is seeing it [Pakistani talent], why aren’t we?”

She said the good work in Pakistan is being done by those “who have taken risks”.

Polite Society, released in the UK on April 28, has already got rave reviews. The Guardian wrote that the “film delivers a spinning back kick of laughs”.

Originally published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2023