The Pool Vs City of Joy: A new Western view of India?
Of the many things to admire about Chris Smith’s The Pool is its allegorical references to the struggles of India’s economic and social changes. Set in Panjim, Goa, the film tells the story of Venkatesh who has left his village to work in a city hotel. He stumbles upon a swimming pool in a country estate and strikes up a friendship with the owner (Nana Patekar) who encourages him realise his potential and strike his luck in Mumbai. He even offers him employment as gardner. This friendship is contrasted by the owner’s daughter (Ayesha Mohan) who is against her father’s “competitive” view of life and the world.
The Pool is an unhurried film that serves to explore Venkatesh’s inner world as he comes in contact with different people, including his young friend Jhangir (Jhangir Badshah). More importantly, the film credits Venkatesh with agency, unlike films such as City of Joy, which presents the developing world as a white man’s burden and the natives as incapable of agency or thought. According to the filmmakers Nana Patekar, who initially refused to do the film, watched bits of it shot and cut and remarked: “This reminds me of what we used to do before we got corrupted”. The film made use of an Indian crew, non professinal actors in Venkatesh and Jhangir, and the filmmakers don’t speak a word of Hindi. So how did they manage the language barrier:
There’s more to a performance than language. If you really focus you can instinctually just feel if a performance is or isn’t working – and if not what’s wrong. I worked with a translator to insure the lines and crux of the scene were always what I wanted – but as far as performance, you really just face the same challenges you would if it were in English.