falderal : a moving images blog
The Pool ; 2009  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Posted by Maddy

Director: Chris Smith
Actors: Jhangir Badshah, Venkatesh Chavan, Ayesha Mohan, Nana Patekar
Country: U.S.A.

As much as I don’t wish to compare this film to the hit of 2008 Slumdog Millionaire it’s hard not to draw comparisons. This film focusing on lower class Indians is another example of India viewed from the eyes of a foreigner. Chris White, an American filmmaker, tells a story of a foreign land, in the foreign land and in a foreign language. But this film is much quieter than its successful counterpart and manages to tell a better story without the overt glamour of Slumdog.

The Pool is about the “room boy” Venkatesh, an eighteen year old from a small rural town trying to make a living without having any education. He cleans hotel rooms and sells plastic bags with the help of his friend Jhangir, who is in the same situation as him. Jhangir is a realist compared to Venkatesh and chides him for spending his free time perched in a mango tree overlooking the property of a rich family. This family, consisting of a father and a daughter, spend their time in the backyard but never in the pool, much to Venkatesh’s puzzlement. Venkatesh manages to get a job working for the family and while working in the vicinity of his desire learns about the troubled family and gets an opportunity to leave his lifestyle for a better one.

The simple cinematography and on location shooting gives the film a realistic feel. Though fiction, one can understand that there are thousands of Venkatesh’s and Jhangir’s all trying to make a living out of nothing. Not necessarily a sad film, it has its bitter sweet ending, but the films’ stark realism highlights a situation that is certainly not desperate but a problem none the less. The real triumph of the film is in its story telling. An underlying story of the film is the story of the family Venkatesh works for. A father lives with his daughter away from the big city for reasons unknown. The daughter, a rebellious teenager has a strained relationship with her father. In two sentences, the first by the father and the second by the daughter manage to explain not only why they don’t go swimming in the pool, but why their relationship is so strained and even give a light to what had happened before hand. Very little of what happened is made explicit and it is up to the audience to fill in the gaps. Yet this low key style of story telling is the highlight of the film.
Subtle, quiet and thoughtful The Pool shows a side of India that wouldn’t be seen from Bollywood. In the spirit of the quiet American indie films that have been popular over the last ten years The Pool is about normal people with normal lives. The authenticity of not only the story but the actors, for many of whom it was their first film, manages to make this film resonate more than it should. Nothing extraordinary, but good filmmaking none the less, The Pool demonstrates how what is left unsaid is the best way to say it.

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