TRISHNA, a tragic, ill-fated, love story, highlights the societal struggles in contemporary India while weaving a tale of lovers who try to move beyond the confines of position, cultural structure and boundaries.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and produced by IFC, TRISHNA is the screen adaption of Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urbanvilles. Filmed exclusively around Mumbai Bollywood, (formerly Bombay), with all its intrigue, and Rajasthan, the rural countryside, TRISHNA, also uses places of interest throughout India as backdrops which provided an up close guided tour. Although, TRISHNA is set in contemporary 21st century India, it highlights the stark contrasts between the vibrant Mumbai life and the slow modernization of the villages and remote areas along with the socio-economic impact.
Stepping into the lead roles of the doomed lovers are Frieda Pinto as Trishna and Riz Ahmed as Jay whom both give excellent performances and embody their characters with authenticity, truthfulness and realism.
TRISHNA begins with a boy’s weekend for the rich and idle English elite coming to an end. As they‘re touring the ancient temples, which are in pristine condition, they stop for the evening, in rural India, to enjoy an authentic dinner/dance theater show. It is there that Jay and Trishna meet.
As it goes he is immediately smitten, and as a member of the rich and idle, bored, a dangerous combination. Their lives are polar opposites. She supports her family with her meager earnings as a dancer in a hotel and he is the son of a wealthy English hotelier. Her life centers on work and family. His life is non-stop party with brief moments of resolve.
Initially for her betterment she accepts his affection. Of course, as duty called him to run his father’s hotel, he decides to offer Trishna the money to move and a salary that is impossible for her to pass. With her families blessing, she departs her remote village and begins her “new” life in a more modern environment. Slowly, she comes out her shell, begins hotel management classes at Jay’s direction, and seems to move freely into the more modern lifestyle.
After much wooing, they defy cultural restrictions and become a couple. This road isn’t without deep emotional scars and tragedy and still soon they are living together without concern or care in Mumbai and, albeit briefly, life is good . . . and love is good. As fate has it tragedy strikes. Of course, life or love doesn’t reach the highs without some lows and for this couple the lows begin a decent of no return.
Frieda Pinto, into a character, without sounding cliché, she was born to play. There is genuineness to her depiction of the eldest daughter, in a rural community that is still very much rooted in a culture where shame, family obligation, sense of duty and patriarchal order is very important. Pinto is sensual, childlike, tied to duty struggling between modernity, a modern Mumbai woman, with a life of independence, fiercely embracing freedom and enjoying its possibilities and the deeply ingrained emotional and cultural anchors of her rural upbringing.
Riz Ahmed, virtually unknown to western cinema, grabs the role of Jay and transcends the character. His performance is honest, with moments of truly pure brilliance as he embodies exemplifies his engrained sense of entitlement and dominance. As elevated as his character is in India’s culture, socio-economic status, they are both tied to duty and family obligation. She is held by society to a particular status he is also tied to patriarchal duties and obligation.
TRISHNA shows assimilation, is strictly class defines societies such as India, would be difficult if not impossible. As always in films originating from this region, the costumes are vibrant, rich beautiful colors that masked the internal struggles, feelings, heartache of the people. The social economic divide is deep with both extremes wealth and poverty, portrayed. Also very present were Deep cultural and mysticism, religions and gods.
A favorite at Film Festivals around the world, TRISHNA has been a selection at 2011 Toronto Film Festival, 2011 BFI London Film Festival, 2011 International Film Festival of India, 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival and the 2012 TRIBECA Film Festival.
Frieda Pinto and Riz Ahmed are just two of the reasons to see TRISHNA! Their performances are deep and resonate of truth.
TRISHNA is now playing is select cities. Check local listings.