The Pool


Directed by Chris Smith. Starring Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan,Nana Patekar Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 mins

Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 mins

Venkatesh is an uneducated 18-year-old scrabbling a living on the streets of Panjim, Goa. He hopes someday to work in a chocolate factory but for the moment he cleans hotel rooms and sells plastic bags on the street with Jhangir, a savvy, orphaned 10-year-old.

Between shifts and hard-earned snack foods, Venkatesh obsesses over a shimmering swimming pool on the more salubrious side of town. He comes to stalk the sad, mysterious family who live there, watching them from a nearby mango tree. Finally, he befriends the man and his teenage daughter and discovers their tragic secret.

Shot using mostly non-professional actors by a director who could neither speak nor understand Hindi, at its best, The Pool looks and feels like a rougher hewn, softer-edged Satyajit Ray fable. Chris Smith’s handheld camera is bright and exotic. The tone is buoyant and adventurous. Bollywood veterans such as Nana Patekar complement the young, inexperienced cast members.

The film itself is a fluke. A rare feature from the documentarian behind The Yes Men, it was almost abandoned entirely when Smith struggled to find a bungalow with a pool in the relevant locale.

Its European release is belated, to say the least. The Pool was an award-winner way back at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. It graced several critics’ top 10 lists in the US in 2008 yet failed to materialise on this side of the Atlantic.

A cynic might complain that the film exoticises poverty; certainly there are few deviations into the grubbier end of social realism. Kitchen sink, to be fair, is never part of Smith’s remit.

At any rate, we’re glad to finally catch it in cinemas.

The Pool is a small production but one worth waiting for.