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Based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 'Trishna' tells the story of one woman whose life is destroyed by a combination of love and circumstances. Set in contemporary Rajasthan, Trishna (Freida Pinto) meets a wealthy young British businessman Jay Singh (Riz Ahmed) who has come to India to work in his father's hotel business. After an accident destroys her father's Jeep, Trishna goes to work for Jay, and they fall in love. But despite their feelings for each other, they cannot escape the conflicting pressures of a rural society which is changing rapidly through industrialisation, urbanisation and, above all, education. Trishna's tragedy is that she is torn between the traditions of her family life and the dreams and ambitions that her education has given her. Written by
Set in contemporary Mumbai, TRISHNA is the tragic tale of a young woman (Freida Pinto) plucked from a village by a rich entrepreneur (Riz Ahmed) to live the high life, but finds herself very much at his beck and call with very little opportunity for self-determination. The story is an object lesson in how to understand the phrase "all that glisters is not gold," while pointing out the evils of capitalism in the newly-rich world of the Indian bourgeoisie.
Michael Winterbottom's film has a fine sense of place, stressing the contrasts between the young woman Trishna's rural origins, her new life in Mumbai and her subsequent decampment to Rajasthan, where she is expected to work as a servant to Jay - the entrepreneur - while being a lover at the same time. The combination of roles proves too much for her, leading to a violent denouement. Jay is portrayed as a superficial character for whom money has far more importance than love; on many occasions the two concepts are deliberately conflated so that he can achieve his ends. Riz Ahmed turns in a fine performance, his facial expressions seldom changing as he returns to India from a prosperous life in London and expects the local people to act at his beck and call.
Stylistically speaking, however, TRISHNA is rather irritating. Winterbottom's camera finds it difficult to focus on one particular object or person at a time; the shooting style is jerky, with several fast cuts between one thing and another. This serves a thematic purpose
to underline the superficialities of Jay's existence - but becomes
rather difficult to watch. Consequently we find it difficult to sympathize with the protagonists - especially Trishna, even though she is very much the victim of a patriarchal society. Freida Pinto turns in a nuanced performance, but Winterbottom does not allow us to focus much on her facial expressions. The film might have worked better as a tragic love story if he had permitted us to understand her complex state of mind more fully.
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