Movie review: 'Trishna' moves classic to modern-day India
Editor's note: This review first appeared May 17, when the movie had a single screening during the Silk Screen Film Festival.
When 19-year-old Trishna (Freida Pinto) arrives from her rural village to work at a hotel near Jaipur, she is hobbled by a cast on her arm, the result of a car accident.
Nevertheless, she can tend to the caged birds, without realizing she has just flown behind invisible bars herself while a wealthy benefactor starts to cosset and control her and later close the door.
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed.
- Rating: R for sexuality, some violence, drug use and language.
By the time her passivity finally -- finally! -- gives way to action, it's too late. Lives are ruined and blood spilled.
Director Michael Winterbottom very loosely adapts Thomas Hardy's 1891 "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," moving the action from England to modern-day India, where Trishna is torn between her rural roots, responsibility to family and desire for a better life and the new, mobile, urban world. She is a prisoner of double standards that continue to exist more than a century after publication of the Victorian best-seller.
As the movie opens, Trishna lives with her large family in a village in Rajasthan, India's largest state. The accident that breaks her arm also severely injures her father and leaves him in even deeper debt so when Jay (Riz Ahmed), the son of a wealthy developer, offers to help her land a job at a hotel, he seems a godsend.
But there is no such thing as a free opportunity and Jay starts to woo and pursue her until Trishna leaves the hotel and returns home. As with other changes -- Mr. Winterbottom combined the characters of Angel and Alec into Jay -- this is one of the places where the story strays from the original.
"Trishna" follows the young woman as she lights out for the city but again finds herself a prisoner of circumstances and choices. The story lays the foundation for Trishna's final acts, including a decision about her own destiny, but they seem rooted in another time, when women had far fewer options.
Ms. Pinto, who broke through in "Slumdog Millionaire" and since appeared in "Miral," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," is arresting as Trishna, a woman whose beauty is her blessing, curse and crutch. Mr. Ahmed's Jay is a wealthy playboy who becomes cruel when Trishna doesn't represent his outdated ideas of purity.
Mr. Winterbottom immerses moviegoers in the many faces of India, including a nod to Bollywood. Tragedy has never looked lovelier.
Opens Friday at the Harris Theater, Downtown.
First Published September 13, 2012 12:00 am