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Released Michael Winterbottom
Director 9 March 2012

Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Kalki Koechlin, Roshan Seth, Anurag Kashyap, Neet Mohan
Writer(s) Michael Winterbottom

Michael Winterbottom, Melissa Parmenter
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 113 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating 15A

A Hardy perennial.

Trishna is a fresh take on the Thomas Hardy cautionary novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, with the story transported from nineteenth century England to modern day India. This is not the first time Michael Winterbottom has adapted Hardy for the screen but Trishna is perhaps the most straightforward of these adaptations. The story is quite faithfully retold without gimmicks other than the change of time and place. The choice of India works very well; the country today represents a huge disconnect between the cosmopolitan, Westernised lifestyles of its major cities and the very traditional, highly moral existence of the poorer rural communities. Within this context, Trishna’s moral dilemmas and ultimate downfall still seem like very real prospects.

Freida Pinto plays the heroine; a beautiful but humble young woman from a poor background. She helps her father in his day to day work while supplementing their income with occasional shifts at a nearby hotel. It is here that she meets Jay (Riz Ahmed), the handsome son of a hotel tycoon who has made the move from London to India to work on the family business. He becomes besotted with Trishna and the two eventually begin a tentative relationship. But thanks to the restrictions of Indian culture and a change of attitude from Jay, the relationship eventually turns sour.

How Jay’s change in attitude is portrayed is the movie’s greatest downfall. In the original book, Tess has two love interests; the callous man who seduces her and the honourable man who cares for her. Winterbottom has chosen to condense both these men into the one character of Jay. It’s a bad decision. Riz Ahmed is required to undergo a change of personality so extreme as to be completely unbelievable, thus making the inevitably tragic ending similarly hard to swallow.

Despite this admittedly huge problem, Trishna does hold the attention thanks both to Pinto’s captivating, subtle performance (the camera really does love her) and the wonderful visuals on display. Cinematographer Marcel Zyskind captures an Indian landscape which is undeniably beautiful but still holds a sense of the everyday about it. It is this little seen, un-touristy India that is the star of Trishna, raising it above the problems of its storyline and making it worth the ticket price.

- Linda O’Brien