Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Pool - Dip into a refreshing parable

Directed by Chris Smith, largely know for his documentaries, and based on a short story by Randy Russel ( who originally based the story in Iowa), 'The Pool' is a movie set in Panjim, Goa in India. A movie, almost documentary like in its filming and having performances by largely non actors who retain their names for the characters, it tells the tale of an 18 year old housekeeping boy (Venkatesh Chavan) working in a nondescript  hotel. His days work comprises of sweeping the floors, cleaning bathrooms, making and delivering room service orders, washing the dishes, clothes, making beds and cleaning the guest rooms. All of this, he does with the enthusiasm of a flogged animal. Inhabiting his limited world is a bright eyed 12 year orphaned restaurant worker Jhangir, who Venkatesh teams up with to sell plastic bags in the local fish market to supplement their livelihood.

They are uneducated and illiterate, but have hopes to someday start a business or become an engineer if given an opportunity to study. At the end of a hard day's work, Venkatesh's one respite is in climbing the mango tree overlooking a beautiful, uninhabited house with a pool. Taking a plunge into the glistening turquoise waters of that pool on a hot day is a dream he harbors . The story takes off when one fine day he finds the house occupied by a father and his young adult daughter. To gain access to the pool, he manages to acquaint himself with the father, by offering to help in tending the gardens of the house. Along with little Jhangir, he also manages to befriend the cynical, worldly wise daughter, who he is possibly attracted to. How these little friendships form and ultimately change the course of the boys' destinies, is at the heart of this heartwarming parable.

Class difference in India is commonplace and clearly demarcated. However, the human that reside in us, is the same. This extremely humane intermingling of classes is poetically captured. The movie strikes an authentic note in every frame. It is slow, almost lethargic in its pace but with purpose. The beauty in capturing the spontaneity of the most mundane of moments and tasks in a person's day, with no drama, is almost forgotten in fictional filmmaking. Chris Smith reacquaints us with the pleasure.  We end up inhabiting this world of Venkatesh's and follow him in the emotions he encounters, the lessons he learns.

The actors are charming. Venkatesh Chavan and Jhangir are non actors who are illiterate and couldnt speak English. The director of the movie knew no Hindi, the spoken language of the film. With such handicaps, the natural performances that were extracted, are applause worthy. Nana Patekar, playing the role of the father who takes Venkatesh under his wings, is perhaps the only big name from Bollywood in the movie and he imparts great authenticity to his character. The daughter, played by upcoming actress Ayesha Mohan, is pitch perfect.

'The Pool' is an experience in verite filmmaking. While the parable warms the cockles of your heart, it is the treatment of the filming, that truly sets it apart. A true to life cinema, I relished every moment the characters had, their simple pleasures, such as slicing and eating raw mangoes, the father imparting worldly advice to Venkatesh, the three friends wondering around Panjim discovering beauty in the ordinary. The movie stands out in its depiction of reality. A welcome change from drama, I have seen too many of those. This kind, I crave more of.

Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Play

1 comment:

  1. This indeed is a good watch. Very authentic and natural performances by the actor. The director, though not an Indian, captured the Indian lifestyle very authentically. Great review.