If you have never ventured, but always wondered, lusted for the exotic, compelling mystique of India, “Trishna” dishes up a savory cacophony of sounds, sights, contrasts so vividly realistic, pulsating with polluted, congested, dark, dusky corridors, blinding, sun- scorched fields, man and mammal wedded by culture and necessity; still imbued with a “class” conscious, constricted society; director Michael Winterbottom, without obfuscation, paints the myriad of flaws, fallacies, magical beauty, torturous poverty of this enigmatic world, almost to the point of distraction; the plot is secondary to the seductive, secretive lure of this exhilarating, turbulent, fascinating country.
“Trishna” is an updated version of Thomas Hardy’s 1891, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”; Victorian England, women still hibernating in the “chattel age”; commencement of the Industrial Revolution; beautiful “Tess” of diminished wealth and proper credentials, limited choices, grapples archaic restrictions, interacts with the gentry determining her fate in late nineteenth century. The book is a classic and it was with trepidation that I ventured into “Trishna” , mimicking the bonds of “Tess” in twenty- first century India.
India, still in postpartum turmoil; adjusting to democracy; a burgeoning economy; graft among its leaders; vast explosion of humanity; trying to sever the ancient hubris of “class”. India was the perfect venue for the Hardy’s scenario; he would have been satisfied with the interpretation.
The heart, core and success of the film rests with the intoxicating performance of Freida Pinto as “Trishna”; quietly, pristinely innocent, oblivious of her beauty, devoid of options she contributes to the survival of her family by working as a hostess in a tourist resort. Enter “Jay” of Indian heritage, raised in England, ignorant of his native tongue but dumbfounded by the virginal, breathtaking, surreal naivety of Trishna; in their first encounters she refers to him as “sir”; his hierarchy (class) untouchable, unattainable. Riz Ahmed as Jay is prodigious as the handsome, spoiled, feckless cad who hires Trishna to work in one of his father’s hotels.
As the film progresses from the mighty and feeble in Rajasthan to the elite and sophisticated in Mumbai we witness the transformation of Trishna and Jay, from idyllic to sycophantic to destined. Trishna blossoms from child to sensual maturity, always with a touch of fatalism; control of her future illusive, a mirage of her imagination. Pinto is illuminating in the role.
The pungent pulse of India simmers throughout the predictable plot; enervating heat cloaks the occupants in overcrowded buses; airless huts harboring neglected, partially clothed children; barefoot, colorful, sari-clad, women working in bleak, dungeon-like factories for a few rupees a day; contrasted with the Olympic grandeur, dancing splendor of India’s resplendence resorts. Winterbottom grasps the dichotomies, dynamics, dimensions of India and shares his astuteness with the world!
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!