‘Trishna’ – A Review

Inspired by Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, this Michael Winterbottom film is set in contemporary India, where Frieda Pinto, playing a young country girl, Trishna, attracts the interest of Riz Ahmed, as Jay, an idle wealthy British Indian on a trip with his university mates.

After Trishna and her Father are injured, when he crashes the truck he uses in his transport business, an inspired echo of the inciting incident in Hardy’s Tess, Jay gives Trishna a job in his Father’s hotel.  She works there until their relationship develops in a way that fills her with shame and she runs back to the family home, where a discrete abortion is arranged.  Her Father will never subsequently look her in the eye, but, when he sends her to work for her Uncle in Mumbai where Jay tracks her down, he is happy to buy a television and a new truck with the money she is then able to send home.

But Jay is not the knight in shining armour he imagines himself to be, and on a downward moral spiral, he stops behaving well.  This was one of the less satisfactory aspects of the adaptation for me.  Jay is a conflation of both the wealthy dissolution of Alec d’Urberville and the priggishness of Angel Clare, and it’s a stretch for the Riz Ahmed, who goes from charming and attractive to a bit petulant, but it also eliminates the feeling that Trishna has no alternatives because she is trapped between the two men.

I enjoyed the sense of place conveyed, although it is far from the tourist brochure image of many recent films set in India.  This film isn’t one that’s going to make you want to rush out to book your next holiday there.

The contrasts, between the comfort of the luxury hotels and the sparseness of the family’s rural home, highlighted  the social economic  divide that meant that Trichna and Jay could never be together on equal terms; the scenes of harvest, of brightly dressed women gathering crops echoed the farming scenes of the Hardy novel, and were far removed from the dirt and congestion of the city.

I found the ending rather unsatisfactory; even knowing that, if it were to be true to the Hardy original, it would not turn out well for Trishna, I still felt that there was insufficient reason for her to act the way she did.

And I couldn’t help wondering how Frieda Pinto, looking so exquisitely beautiful, could have belonged to the same family as all the rather unattractive coarse featured siblings and parents.

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