Trishna (2011)

Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Meeta Vashisht, Harish Khanna
The story of the tragic relationship between the son of a property developer and the daughter of an auto rickshaw owner.
  • IFC Films Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 09 Mar 2012 Released:
  • 06 Nov 2012 DVD Release:
  • $0.2M Box office:

All subtitles:


Something completely different8/10

I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere of Trishna at the
Toronto International Film Festival. Here is what I thought of it:

The story is based on one of the most celebrated pieces of literature
of all time, Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Ubervilles". Director
Michael Winterbottom takes this classic tale and adapts it for modern
audiences by changing the setting to contemporary India. Does this
work? Surprisingly, it does, and this is coming from someone who hasn't
ever read the novel nor seen the 1979 Academy Award winning film
adaptation from Roman Polanski, "Tess".

The titular character, Trishna (Freida Pinto), is a humble, soft-spoken
young woman and the eldest daughter of a poor, rural, Indian family.
While working at a nearby resort to help pay the bills, she is swept
off her feet by a young British businessman, Jay (Riz Ahmed), who finds
himself in India to manage a hotel at the request of his father, a
wealthy property developer. When Trishna's father is severely injured
in an automobile accident, Jay asks her to work for him, and she shyly
accepts. Their feelings for each other grow the more they spend time
together. However, Trishna isn't easily torn away from her beloved
family nor her traditional life nor her ambition as a dancer, and she's
in for some drastic changes when she moves to Mumbai with her lover.

To be honest, I really didn't know what to expect from this film. I
entered the theatre only knowing two things about it: (1) the story is
based on a classic novel and (2) it's set against an Indian backdrop.
Never would I have guessed-- even at an hour and a half into the film--
that this simple premise would progressively turn into something a lot
more shocking, to say the least (the last 10 minutes made the whole
audience gasp simultaneously).

This is a unique kind of cinema that really transgresses the boundaries
of conventional filmmaking with the way it develops a seemingly simple
story and with the many reactions it gets out of the audience as it
unfolds. I guess you could call the film a little deceiving, because it
never goes in the direction you imagine it would go. But I'm not
suggesting that there's a plot twist at the end, so please don't go
expecting that.

What makes the ending so shocking, then? It's all due to the gradual,
subtle buildup that does a great job developing the characters of
Trishna and Jay as their relationship becomes increasingly odd and
discomforting for the viewer. I don't know if I was alone here, but as
I was watching the film, I was kind of going through what Trishna had
to go through-- emotionally, of course. I believe this confirms that
Freida Pinto still has what it takes to deliver a solid performance
since her "Slumdog Millionaire" fame. The acting isn't anything amazing
or noteworthy, but there's no denying that she does a good job in her
role, despite being a little inconsistent in some scenes of dialogue
between her and Riz Ahmed, the male co-star who plays Jay. He was
surprisingly decent for a relatively unknown industry newcomer, but--
once again-- nothing extraordinary.

To be honest, if it weren't for this ending, the film's many flaws
would be significantly more distinctive and visible for me. I just
can't get over how well everything is tied together in the last few
scenes. This is where Michael Winterbottom finally achieves in putting
his point across; in making sense out of the film as a cohesive whole.

Apart from the unique structure and progression of the story, "Trishna"
has many other memorable elements. I was particularly blown away by the
beautiful, on-location shots and nearly candid cinematography that gave
us a very realistic perception of life in India, and the
clearly-defined division between both social classes. I loved how a
great deal of non- actors were used in the production of the film (for
instance, Freida Pinto claimed that her character's family was in fact
a real family in rural India who cooperated with the crew).

Throughout the entire film, there's so much absorbing beauty in all the
outside locations in India that you won't believe your eyes! For the
mere fact that what you're seeing in the background is completely real,
you should be as blown away as I was while watching the film! It's
breathtaking! This exquisite imagery is backed up by a powerful
original score from Mike Galasso that complements the Indian
countryside and the Mumbai cityscape without ever sounding too
traditional or foreign. Music plays a key role in enhancing the emotion
of this particular film.

Despite all of these admirable aspects, this film is far from being
perfect (though the concept of perfection is, in itself, flawed). I
still question the pertinence of certain scenes in the film, as well as
the strength of the narrative structure. Will "Trishna" stand the test
of time? Will it live up to its original power upon multiple viewings?
I'm inclined to say "no" to both of these questions, despite being very
affected by this piece of cinema. It was clear that most of the
audience wasn't very impressed by such avant-garde cinema, but I'm sure
I wasn't the only one who admired it in so many ways. To me, this film
feels like a one-time experience; an interesting artistic vision
capable of marking you and staying with you for some time.

So, go ahead! Whenever you get the chance to see this film, I say "go
for it!". It's something refreshingly unconventional that you might
find yourself drawn by for the same reasons as me! I recommend seeing
"Trishna" because of its ultimately shocking, thought-provoking nature.
Come on! You have nothing to lose! (Except a small sum of money,
And the moral of the story is?1/10
I have never seen a film attempt to create so much (unwarranted) endearment towards a character who is clearly disturbed and has a warped sense of reason and justice.

Where is the character development? I don't see the point on this story at all, I'm not sure what the message is here. I'm not won over by the conflicts between class, rich and poor and Indian landscapes. That doesn't make a good movie, the story does. And to me the story is inconsistent, full of unanswered questions and quite frankly messed up.

Terrible adaptation, I've not read the book but surely there is more to this story and the characters. Trishna needs a slap and a cup of coffee.
Decent Attempt but its not "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"6/10
Trishna – CATCH IT (B) Trishna is loosely based upon critically acclaimed 1800's novel "Tess of the D'Urbervilles". This is a story of young girl whose life is destroyed by the circumstances and love. Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a beautiful novel and the story is more complex than Michael Winterbottom decides to adopt in his adaptation. Here the director only chooses to pick up the poor girl and a rich man who first makes and then destroys her life. He left many key characters and moment from the magnificent novel, which I think would have made this movie more interesting. Otherwise Trishna seemed more like an erotic version relies on sex only. Once you become aware of the novel you will understand that the director chooses an easy way to make this an erotic bonanza. We never gets to hear why Trishna doesn't leave from sexual abuse later or at least tell him that she is felling like a sexual victim but sadly we never get to hear her point of view. She does what she was told by men in her life from her father to the man she falls in love with. Freida Pinto is truly a Revelation, starting from Slumdog Millionaire, then to Red Woman in Woody Allan's ensemble YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER to Immortals with Henry Cavill to Rise of the Planet of the Apes with James Franco and now in Trishna, she has proved why everyone wants to work with her. Riz Ahmed is superb; he is charming, passionate and evil in one body all together. On the whole Winterbottom successfully adopted the Indian atmosphere and also was able to take out brilliant performance from Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed but I think he failed to do justice to the Thomas Hardy novel "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" because it was never about eroticness it was about a young girl destroyed by her circumstance. If I forget it's based upon this novel than it's a very nice movie.
Doing Hardy proud in modern India9/10
Filmmakers never have been able to resist indulging their love for the good ol' English canon by churning out their own rendering of classic novels. Last year was no exception, with the likes of Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre and Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights hitting our screens. But while these were both pretty decent efforts, overall they provided little more than an opportunity for the well-versed viewer to compare them to previous outings and mull over their treatment of the source material.

As such, the classic novel adaptation has become little more than a type of genre flick, in which we are invited to watch a director wrestle with a well-worn story. Transposing Thomas Hardy's tragic novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles from Victorian Wessex to modern day India, as Michael Winterbottom has done with Trishna, appears on the surface to be little more than another gimmicky relocation of a classic tale. This film, however, manages to do justice to Hardy's themes whilst carving out a discernibly different kind of work that can be watched and enjoyed with fresh eyes.

Hardy was writing in a period of dramatic ideological and economic transition. Victorian censoriousness was still grappling with post-Reformation libertinism while the Industrial Revolution was encroaching upon and modernising the rural world. Tess is a heroine caught in the crossfire of warring moralities. Winterbottom deftly reinterprets the character as Trishna (Freda Pinto), a teenager from a poor family, who is torn between the traditional values of her homeland in rural Rajasthan and the social and sexual liberation she later finds in Mumbai.

Winterbottom has stated that he chose India because it currently bears similar ideological divides to those of nineteenth century Britain, but he in fact paints a more complex and modern picture. Far from being the 'pure woman' of Hardy's novel, whose downfall took place in spite of her moral rectitude, Trishna is a conflicted character who is grounded in the old world but drawn to the bright lights of the new.

In place of the pious Angel Clare, who Tess falls in love with, and the rakish Alec d'Urberville, who robs her of her virtue, we are given Jay Singh (Riz Ahmed), a conflation of both characters. A British-born rich kid, he comes to Rajasthan to work for his father's chain of hotels and takes a shine to Trishna. The two begin to fall in love, but he unwittingly leads her to disgrace herself by succumbing to his advances. Growing tired of hiding their relationship, he suggests they leave for Mumbai, where they can live together, free from scorn.

Although perhaps a little insensitive, Jay is every bit the honest and loving Angel Clare of the narrative, until a return to Rajasthan leads his darker, d'Urbevillian side to show itself. Managing one of his father's hotels, a former harem, he revels in subordinating Trishna to his depraved appetites, until she is forced to take revenge.

Unlike Hardy's novel of black-and-white morality embodied by wholesome heroines and seedy villains, these modernised characters have internalised these conflicts. Winterbottom's adaptation insists upon its modern setting, and refuses to impose Hardy's hundred-year-old dynamic onto it. Trishna's downfall isn't a journey from honour to disgrace, but a process by which she is isolated between two different notions of piety, and taken advantage of by her malevolent lover. Not only does this prevent Winterbottom from casting aspersions on traditional or indeed modern values, it also makes for a far more convincing appropriation of the novel.

Although Winterbottom is given a writing credit, the script was apparently little more than a set of vague outlines from which the actors were expected to improvise the dialogue. Luckily, the leads are more than up to the task, and their off-the-cuff performances lend well to portraying a tentative courtship between two different cultures. The early scenes in which Jay has to overcome the language barrier to get Trishna's attention are a naturalistic joy, yet even as things take a more dramatic turn, Pinto and particularly Ahmed remain startlingly believable.

Their improvised riffs help to cast the characters into entirely different moulds, while the embrace of the Indian aesthetic allows the setting to stake new ground within the story as well. Whether Winterbottom is diving head first into the throng of the city or nestling the camera in the rugged hills of the countryside, his loose and intuitive style takes each locale as it is, capturing it with intelligence and warmth. The soundtrack, featuring a selection of original Bollywood numbers, bounces off the visuals wonderfully, whilst the incorporation of an on-screen translation of the Hindi lyrics proves a novel and expressive addition. Rather than treating India as a mere stand-in for old-world England, Winterbottom attends to it dutifully, helping to create the film's distinctive flavour.

Whether you've read Tess or not, love a good adaptation or usually find them cosy, generic tripe, there's plenty to enjoy with Trishna. Instead of just guising an old story in contemporary garb, Winterbottom truly reinterprets it and in doing so finds resonance with a modern audience. Most impressively, it is an adaptation that stands firmly on its own two feet, and graces us with some inimitable and elegant performances.
A thrill for the senses7/10
My rating: 66/100

I saw this movie at the Toronto film fest. In the lead role is the lovely Freida Pinto of 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame. The director, Michael Winterbottom also wrote the screenplay which was adapted from Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles".

Even though this film marked it's premiere gala the night before, today's screening had a festival perk - both the director and lead actor were at hand to introduce the film and also reconvene afterwards for a short Q&A. Certainly makes the occasion more special. An added bonus - Freida Pinto looked stunningly beautiful.

The setting of this romantic tragedy is India… at its most beguiling and also at its fetid worst. Winterbottom successfully transported me into the story by deftly creating a montage of the sights and sounds… bright, brash, beautiful and bleak… that appealed to all my senses. I could almost taste the gritty dust on the dry country roads and smell the dank alleyways that he took us through. I was particularly enamoured with the warm colourful music and background score which really enhanced the visual experience. The director's ability to engage all my senses was the key in opening the door to believing Trishna's spiralling tale of love and survival.

Culture deals a cruel hand to females in India, placing them and their future at the whim and mercy of the men in their lives, whether a father, an employer or a lover. I felt a sense of anger and defiance watching this, but Winterbottom so successfully conveyed this strange and different lifestyle that I found it believable to witness Trishna's series of unwittingly short-sighted decisions. We root for her, but deep inside feel there is no escaping the life of woe and deceit she finds herself in.

Even though I enjoyed this film, there were a couple of weak areas.

First, the director opted to have the actors create much of their own dialogue and I felt the absence of a hard and fast script was rather apparent. The two lead characters lacked depth and fullness, mainly because the words weren't there to give us the nuances needed to know who they were. Although as Ms. Pinto stated, it was a wonderful challenge for her as an actor – unfortunately it was her gain and the audiences' loss.

Second, this film ran 117 minutes in length. Perhaps it would be advantageous to edit some 8-10 minutes to tighten it up in a few spots.

Otherwise this was a visually satisfying film with a moving and compelling story.