Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth
Watch Trishna online in the UK: iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Michael Winterbottom combines his wanderlust and his Thomas Hardy obsession by transposing Tess of the D’Urbervilles to present day India. Trishna (Pinto) helps out her family in a rural Indian town. But a chance encounter with spoiled rich kid, Jay (Ahmed), leads to her getting a job in his father’s hotel in Jaipur. They fall in love, she serves him breakfast, she whistles to the budgies and it’s all clean, acceptable and chaste.
But the relationship progresses, and Trishna leaves in a fit of honour meshed with self-loathing, as Jay takes advantage of his position. Eventually, they relocate to progressive Mumbai, where they’re both able to grow. It all becomes a bit sickly.
Stuff happens and Jay has to take on the running of his father’s hotels back in rural India, and so Trishna has to adapt to fit in with local cultural standards. Instead of just getting married (which, presumably, would make such a relationship acceptable to the local populace), their bond gets secretive, abusive, and a little bit rapey.
As an adaptation, the transposition of Hardy’s story to rural India makes a lot of sense – the double standards applied to the sexes play out quite well. But problems arise, mostly from combining two of the book’s characters (judgemental Angel Clare and abusive Alec D’Urberville) into Ahmed’s alternately affectionate/abusive Jay. The talented Ahmed almost makes it work, which is more than can be said for Freida Pinto.
Her Trishna is bland, almost completely without character. While Tess was merely passive, Trishna is a blank with all the personality of an egg whisk. She seems to have no aims or ambition. Does she want to be a dancer in Mumbai? Does she want to manage a hotel? Or is she content to be a Barbie doll and do what she is told? Trishna is an interesting concept, but gets completely lost in translation.