Trishna is Michael Winterbottom’s second film on a Thomas Hardy novel, the first one being “Jude”, which had Kate Winslet and Christopher Eccleston in the lead roles. The stars in “Jude” had offered a very impressive performance that was filled great emotion and pain reflecting the agonizing turmoil of the unfortunate lovers in the story. Although Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed have done a wonderful job in the film “Trishna”, it does lack the passion that the actors had put into Jude.
Set in modern day Rajasthan, the film is the tragic love story of Trishna, played by Freida Pinto, the daughter of a rickshaw driver and the spoilt son of an affluent hotelier (played by the renowned, Roshan Seth), Jay (Riz Ahmed), who has been brought up and educated in England. Adamant to follow his father’s hotel business, Jay visits Mumbai with three of his friends, to search for suitable prospects in this busy Indian metropolitan.
It is here at an old temple that Jay catches a glimpse of Trishna for the first time, but his second encounter with her seals his attraction for the 19-year old local Indian girl. They get close when Trishna’s father meets with an accident and is badly injured where his jeep, which is the sole source of income for a large family, is completely wrecked.
Jay offers Trishna a job at one of his father’s luxury hotels, so that she can support her family and a light affair begins to develop between the two. Each passing day gets Jay more and more enamoured by Trishna’s beauty. Initially, Jay tries to be helpful and protective towards her and gets her to enroll for a hotel management course, which would help boost her career.
The attraction between the two gets more intense and one day they find themselves in a situation where holding back their emotions seems impossible. Jay finds it hard to resist the moment, which is more a seduction than an abuse. Ashamed of what had transpired between them, Trishna quietly goes back to her village.
Here to her dismay, she finds that she is pregnant. Her father is furious and forces her to have an abortion. She now begins to work in a factory owned by her uncle. In the meantime, Jay has been looking for her and traces her to her village and takes her back with him to Mumbai. Although Trishna is torn between her strong traditions and her ambitions to achieve something in life, she decides to choose the latter. They leave for Mumbai and here, their relationship blossoms until one day Jay has to suddenly leave for England because his father has had a stroke.
In a desperate moment, Trishna confesses to Jay about her pregnancy and the abortion that was forced on her. When he returns, Jay has taken the reins of his father’s business into his hands, for which he has to move to Rajasthan. Since the two cannot have an open live-in relationship here, Trishna is asked to take up a job as a hotel maid.
The sad part of the story is the treatment that Jay offers Trishna. Although in the beginning, he shows care for her, but slowly his behaviour towards her changes. He is insensitive to her feelings and needs and does not consider her his equal. He constantly confronts her with sexual overtures that are void of any passion and his abusive behaviour gets worse by the day. Trishna silently suffers her fate.
Michael Winterbottom has picked up the sensitivity of Hardy’s novel and combined it with the fact that even in a contemporary world, class distinctions can influence a relationship so deeply. The sensitivity of Trishna’s character and the long-suffering life that she leads only out of love is what is so heart-rendering in the film. Although the film lacks a little in emotion, it is Freida Pinto’s radiant beauty that offers the film an emotional appeal.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9 has been met with great appreciation. Yet again Michael Winterbottom has spun his magic with a perceptive adaptation of another illustrious Thomas Hardy novel.
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Stars: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed
Release Date: Toronto Film Festival September 2011