Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Pool
Rated: Not Rated

Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins

Genre: Dramas

Theatrical Release: Sep 5, 2008 Limited

Starring: Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan

Starring: Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan

Director: Chris Smith

I happened to catch this movie at the local art house cinema (TheaterN). This is a beautifully crafted, contemplative, drama about have and have-nots told in a quiet understated manner that resonates with the viewer. The story behind this movie is almost as interesting as the move itself. The director Chris Smith, made it after reading a short story about an Iowa graduate student who becomes obsessed with a local swimming pool. Prior to that Smith had been to India, where he met a hotel boy Raju, who despite his long, hard hours had the most wonderful disposition. Reading that short story Smith decided to port the short story to India. It is a self-financed movie, shot mostly with actors off the street. The hand held camera gives this movie a documentary like feel and captures local color and flavor in a way that Wes Anderson’s “Darjeeling Limited” did not, and trust me on that, having lived more than a couple of decades in India, I can tell when a movie captures the local ambience in an authentic fashion.

“The Pool” is about Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) a room boy at a hotel in Panjim, Goa. A transplant in to the city, from the neighboring state of Karnataka, he earns his keep by doing multiple jobs at a hotel, mostly cleaning and room service. One of his routines is to perch himself up atop a tree near a hilltop bungalow, one that overlooks a swimming pool on that property. It is a shimmering, calm oasis in a world that Venkatesh can only aspire too but not have. The pool represents not just class and affluence but also something else. It will become a place that ties all the characters together, some bonds formed from the presence, while others from a past shrouded in sadness and tragedy.

Venkatesh has a buddy, a younger Jahangir (Jhangir Badshah), an orphan who is also illiterate and who like him works, but at a restaurant. Together on the side they have a business, selling plastic bags for shoppers in the street markets around town. Venkatesh has a strong desire to swim in that pool, and he slowly works up the courage to approach the owner of the house with the pool played by the Bollywood star Nana Patekar. A quiet, brooding father often seen sitting silently by the pool or gardening barely conversing with his teenage daughter played by Ayesha Mohan. She actually detests him. There is a back story here.. a family estrangement, a broken heart and something sad from their past. Venkatesh is hired by the father to work in the garden and the slow bond that develops between the two as they work in the garden together is worth watching. There are no big lines here just two people conversing. Nana Patekar as the stoic father is remarkable as is the chatty Venkatesh as he talks about his life and family back home and his desire to get to a better life by going to school although he is eighteen.

The development of the friendship between Venkatesh and Ayesha and Jhangir is also well handled. The girl recovering from a broken heart is in to young adult novels is initially indifferent to the two, but things change slowly despite the gulf between their statuses.

Ayesha and her dad’s stay at the bungalow is short and as the time for them to depart comes close, the father has taken a liking to Venkatesh and offers him a chance to go with him to Bombay where he will get to go to school and also work for him. Venkatesh has a tough choice to make, move farther away from home, leave behind Jahangir to whom he is like a older brother and friend for a chance at a better life. And what is the secret behind the pool which sits there unused, does Venkatesh get to use it?

You have to see the movie for this and the unexpected twist at the end.

Other things I loved about the movie..

Some great long takes, some wonderful crumbling Portuguese architecture, lush green Goa. I also loved the sounds of the street, simple things like the sound of a street sweepers broom, a busy market and shots from every day life. The scenes of Venkatesh and the father gardening are also well done and for me were a pleasure to watch including the simple act of cutting down coconuts from a tree and then breaking them open to drink the coconut water from the fruit. A act of pleasure which I can attest to having done it myself ages back, as is throwing stones at mangoes hanging from a tree to bring them down to eat, something the 3 kids in the movie indulge in as well.

There may be one critique about this movie, that despite dealing with issues of poverty and class it does so without any conflict, in the sense that there are no bad people in this movie. There is no outrage here but that may be an issue for those who do not know Indian society and how the various contradictions there exist side by side.

This is a warm, unhurried movie, and it at its heart it is also a story about giving and the joys of giving, that are revealed in layers as the movie progresses from one who has a lot in life and someone who has nothing.

If you are interested in the story behind this movie here is the podcast of an interview with the director Chris Smith. The movie also has a great website with a trailer and pictures and a lot more. The movie also won the special jury price at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It is Banned Books Week! (Banned Books Week began on Sept. 27 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 4)

A hat tip to Cassandra_M at Delaware Liberal. I had almost forgotten that this week is Banned Books Week. From the ALA's (American Library Association) web site..
"Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4). "
My love of reading and books stems from my parents, folks who hardly completed high school in India. But they knew that education and knowledge would be of help to a better life. So they encouraged me to read. We were not well off so there were hardly any books at home, but during the summer vacations our school would lend us books from it's library to read for the summer. In addition my parents also let me borrow books from a local circulating library. None of this was great shakes as literature, but it was enough to trigger my imagination of worlds and places beyond my immediate environs.
And there a love of reading was born. Time does not permit me to read as much, but I still manage.

Oh and I read the newspaper everyday since I can remember going back to my childhood and I continue to do so. That is fucking more than what that empty suit Sarah Palin can say!
Oh and did you know she asked the library how she could go about banning books while she was mayor of Wasilla? link

Back to books..
Here is a list from the ALA of the top most challenged books from 2000 - 2005.
I think this piece by Carolyn Kellogg at the L.A. Times book blog says it well.

This weekend, L.A. Times books editor David L. Ulin urged us to think about Banned Books Week as more than just a celebration of challenged books that we like. "What happens when our ideals require us to defend a piece of writing that is reprehensible, that stands against everything we stand for?" he asks, continuing:

It's easy to condemn those who would remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from a library, but what about "The Turner Diaries" or "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? Or for that matter, "Tintin in the Congo," which Little, Brown dropped from its "Tintin" reissue series last fall after controversy arose about the book's racist overtones?

These are not just academic questions; they are the heart of the matter, regardless of where you stand on the ideological divide. How do we defend one book without defending all? Such a notion can't help but make us uneasy, but then, that's one of the most essential things books can do.

If you've made your peace with defending dangerous or even heinous speech, and if you were dubbed "a brave champion of liberty" after acing the Guardian's quiz, another front remains. For the second year in a row, the American Library Assn. is celebrating Banned Books Week in Second Life — the freedom to read needs defending, it seems, in our virtual worlds too.

As The Biden - Palin Debate Draws Closer..

Most of you are aware of the wonderful moose in the headlights moments that the GOP nominee for VP, Governor Sarah Palin has been having. Now, it is hard for me to believe that the GOP has found someone less smart than Shrub. But they did it!
Watch the interview and weep for America, for if elected, this woman will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency! To quote DelawareDem at Delaware Liberal, she makes Bush look like a founding member of Mensa!

Can you remember what newspapers and magazines you read to stay informed and learn about the world?

Well Ms. Palin cannot. Watch below.. make sure you have something soft to protect your head before you hit it against the desk out of sheer frustration.

Transcript via ThinkProgress:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.

Heh! She reads a vast variety of sources to get her news, cannot name them.
And you know what is more shocking? She is a journalism major!!!!!!!!!!!!
So is it a surprise that she could not name any major supreme court cases other than Roe v Wade! link

To me clearly Palin is completely out of her depth and for all purposes is ill prepared for the office she is running for, no wonder she has been hidden from the press while she gets "educated". But a part of me wonders if there is a component here, where the expectations are being set so low for the VP debate on Thursday, that if she does anything better than these interviews the idiot pundits will start calling it a victory!