Riz Ahmed and Freida Pinto come together in this vivid reimagining of a classic Hardy novel, transplanted to modern-day India.
Set in Jaipur, Trishna tells the story of a young Indian woman (Pinto) from a poor family, seduced by Jay (Ahmed), the British-born son of a rich hotelier who has returned to India to work for the family business. Inspired by Thomas Hardy’s 19th Century novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, it’s a tragic tale of love and lust corrupted by power imbalance – in wealth, gender, and social status – that descends into violence, despair and revenge.
Released in 2012, Trishna is the third time revered director Michael Winterbottom tackled a Hardy novel: in the past he directed Jude, a heart breaking, true-to-the-text version of Jude the Obscure, and The Claim, based on The Mayor of Casterbridge.
But in Trishna, his most ambitious adaptation, Winterbottom attempts something very different with his source material. Rather than being destroyed, as Tess is, by the cruelty of two men – first the rich employer who cynically defiles her, and then the lover who rejects her when he realises she is no longer ‘pure’ – Trishna places all her trust in Jay, who develops into a monstrous blend of the two.
Initially captivated by her beauty and innocence, Jay becomes increasingly obsessed with Trishna’s exoticism and sexuality – and with controlling and possessing this entirely for himself. She is reduced to a series of symbols; dehumanized, stripped of her own passions, existing only to fulfil his fantasies about what a woman should be.
This retelling feels especially compelling in a country like Cambodia where, as in India, virginity is prized and female sexuality is viewed as shameful by many, while simultaneously fetishized by sexpats who are more than willing to abuse wealth and power to see their fantasies made real.
It’s a sumptuous production with an important message and an excellent cast. Trishna is well worth a watch.
Trishna is showing at: FLICKS 1, St 95: Thursday 20th at 6.30pm, Friday 21st at 4pm and Sunday 24th at 4pm; FLICKS 2, St 136: Friday 21st at 5pm.