Trishna

Trishna turns Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ubervilles into a clever meditation on privilege:  a study of a relationship so fundamentally imbalanced that it can only end in tragedy. Handsome, rich, English-speaking Jay (Riz Ahmed) meets the equally beautiful but poor and trapped Trishna (Freida Pinto) while on vacation with his frat-boy pals in India’s boondocks. He decides to sweep her away from her sad lot, first to work in his dad’s swank hotel, then to share an apartment in Bombay while he pursues other ventures. But what he envisions as a romance and a grand adventure is in reality a particularly invidious form of servitude. Without a penny to her name and now “ruined” by her dalliance with Jay, Trishna becomes a doormat, able only to smile and nod her assent to whatever her well-meaning but oblivious boyfriend may want. She may eat well and live comfortably, but she’s as trapped as ever, and maybe more. It’s a nice inversion of the star-cross’d lovers trope.

For the first two-thirds of Trishna, Winterbottom productively plays with this theme, crafting a fast-paced, compelling, uncomfortable drama around his title character’s plight. Later, though, the subtext comes to the fore in a reversal that isn’t quite convincing. In barreling toward Hardy’s tragic conclusion, Winterbottom betrays his own attempts to liberate his film from its classic source.

-- Eugene Novikov

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