It’s taken four years since its US release for this Goa-set drama from US doc-maker Chris Smith (‘American Movie’) to reach these shores. But it’s a case of better late than never when it comes to this quietly affecting, genuinely worthwhile undertaking. It’s the sort of story you think you already know: an illiterate Panjim hotel boy (Venkatesh Chavan) gazes in awe at a posh local second home with a pool, inveigles himself into working odd-jobs for the wealthy visiting owner (Nana Patekar), and befriends the latter’s teenage daughter (Ayesha Mohan).
Everything looks set for a tragic analysis of India’s gaping class divide. But the movie has other ideas, nimbly avoiding predictable melodrama for a gentle but perceptive chronicle of burgeoning self-worth and the rewards of loyalty. Smith is in no rush to push the audience’s buttons, and instead he builds up layers of place and character though a largely non-professional cast, an approach which pays dividends in a disarming final flourish. This low-key sense of purpose makes it the exact opposite of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, but it’s no less effective for it.