Review of Trishna

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The story of the tragic relationship between the son of a property developer and the daughter of an auto rickshaw owner. Freida Pinto stars as the title character of Trishna.
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Movie Review: "Trishna"

-- Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes
Release Date: March 9, 2012
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Genre: Drama

"Trishna" is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel, "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." Starring Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed and Anurag Kashyap, the story is set in modern-day India. It follows the struggles of a poverty-stricken woman and her love affair with a rich man from a higher caste. The unexpected setting and mesmerizing characters create an ideal background for the timeless story of love versus class boundaries.

Class distinctions are the central focus of "Trishna." The story centers on the lovely Trishna (played by Freida Pinto), a lower-caste woman who has moved out of the country to seek her fortune in the big city. She works in a hotel and is comfortable within the limitations of her caste-until she meets Jay (played by Riz Ahmed), the son of the hotel's owner.

Both of the leading characters are unhappy with the paths that have been chosen for them. Trishna, who left her home after an accident left her father unable to work, earns money as a hotel maid. Her dreams of being a dancer are out of reach because of her position in society and her duty to provide for her family. Jay, who was born in England, is unwilling to accept a position in his father's company. Both Jay and Trishna want nothing more than the freedom to pursue their own dreams.

Despite the differences in their social and financial standings, Jay and Trishna fall in love. Trishna is reserved at first, choosing to ignore Jay's advances. He sees her reticence as a game and pursues her relentlessly. In the beginning, she is nothing more than an object he wants to claim; after a life of wealth and privilege, Jay believes that nothing is out of his reach. Eventually, she gives in and they discover a deep and genuine love.

The two move to Mumbai, where they can escape their backgrounds. Trishna blends in seamlessly with Jay's friends, giving viewers hope that their love will overcome the realities of Indian society. Although Jay will not allow Trishna to follow her passion as a dancer in Bollywood films, they have a happy and contented existence in the city.

Over time, however, India's clearly defined class boundaries present a significant obstacle for the two lovers. As the story progresses and the two must return home, Jay becomes increasingly aware of the class divisions that separate them. As a result, he transforms from a slightly arrogant and entitled young man to an overbearing, domineering tyrant.

Freida Pinto gives a subtle performance as Trishna, providing a calm and quiet presence throughout the film. Pinto's acting is understated, which gives her an air of mystery that suits the film perfectly. Because her face is nearly expressionless for much of the movie, her rare moments of pure joy are all the more dramatic. Trishna comes alive when she dances, and viewers get a glimpse of the vitality that is bubbling under her serene exterior.

As the tortured Jay, Riz Ahmed gives a lively and believable performance. His character's transformation from the ardent lover to the cruel master is inevitable, but the genuine feeling he displays at the beginning of the story gives viewers hope for redemption. Ahmed's performance is brimming with emotion, and the audience can feel his internal struggle.

In many ways, India is more than just the setting for the movie-it becomes almost a character in and of itself. The traditions and cultural elements inform each character's choices, giving a new life to Hardy's timeless story. Set in the strict confines of Indian society, unwanted pregnancies, abortions and sexual rebellion seem more dramatic and illicit. Director Michael Winterbottom uses the dramatic locations in India to illustrate the way Trishna is moved back and forth from poverty to unimaginable wealth. From the opulent settings in Mumbai to the dirty streets of Trishna's home, the visual impact of each scene adds emotion to the story.

Overall, the story of a doomed young woman plays out well in the harsh confines of Indian society. The darker aspects of the plot work seamlessly with the society's ingrained belief system, creating a believable conflict and an understandable end. The dramatic camera angles make the most of the country's beauty, exposing viewers to aspects of Indian life that are completely foreign to Western culture. The combination of a familiar story and a foreign setting heightens the emotional stakes and imbues the film with a sense of excitement that is missing from the original story.

Rating: 3 out of 5