Life is often brutal, throw in love, and it gets even harsher. People come into and often times unhappily go out of our lives throughout the years. Hearts are broken, minds are played with, doubts are fostered, and ultimately the challenge is to remain true to yourself no matter what. “Trishna” is a movie in which Frieda Pinto’s understated performance as the lead character brings forth a myriad of uncomfortable emotions with the realization that life’s challenges are not always tied up into a neat little bow with a happy ending. In short, “Trishna” is a film that will challenge the viewer to visit those dark places we usually choose to ignore, and you will come out of it, analyzing your life and the loves that have crossed your path. The movie shapes you with a powerful narrative that packs an emotional punch.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the film showcases how destructive an individual can be in someone’s life, and how the currents/eddies of emotion carry the two lead characters on to an inevitable yet unbelievable conclusion. Right off the bat, I have to warn the viewer, that this is a mature film that is not suitable for children in any way. The director is known for pushing the envelope with films like, “Welcome to Sarajevo”, the highly controversial “9 Songs” and “Genova”. He’s not afraid to tackle the dark corners of the human psyche. The screenplay is written by the director and is based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”. He’s taken quite a few liberties from the original novel, by collapsing the three male characters of the original into one multifaceted (if damaged) character played by Riz Ahmed (“The Road to Guantanamo”), while Frieda Pinto portrays the character who provides the narrative spine of the film, Trishna. The other major change is that Winterbottom has changed the locale of the original novel to India (Rajasthan). What could have been a disaster, works in a uniquely memorable way due to the director’s handling of film structure.
The story focuses on Frieda Pinto’s Trishna, a woman from a struggling family, who literally bumps into Riz Ahmed’s Jay Singh (a rich, bored, and somewhat directionless man). When Trishna’s father crashes the family’s jeep, he is unable to provide an income to take care of the home. Trishna is offered a job by Jay to work at his father’s hotel (due mainly to the fact that he is rather enamored of her). This involves Trishna, moving to another city, and though her father is reluctant to let her go, the need for money supersedes the concern for his daughter. Thus begins the journey as Trishna, goes from a woman whose innocence is taken, whose dreams are given hope, and ultimately whose dreams are torn apart by Jay.
The performances are top notch. Riz Ahmed’s portrays Jay as innocent lover, confused man, and dark tormentor with such a subtle yet powerful flair.You can feel his character circling the drains of depression toward the latter reels of the film. The fact that he shares such chemistry with Frieda Pinto adds to the emotional depth of his performance. Yet, the main highlight of the film is Frieda Pinto’s performance. She’s come a long way from her debut in “Slumdog Millionaire”. Her performance during emotional scenes as well as the love scenes adds depth to the movie. The viewer can see each emotion from happiness, to hope, to sadness, despair and ultimate futility. You will be moved by Pinto’s performance which rides the waves of emotion all the way to the end of the film, and will be haunted by it afterwards.
The cinematography by Marcel Zyskind brings the Indian locales to life, and the country becomes a character of its own, in step with the lead character's journeys. The music by popular Bollywood composer Amit Trivedi (“Dev D”) and Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi is melodious and aptly placed within the movie. One of the producers of the film is director Anurag Kashyap (“Gangs of Wasseypur”), and it’s nice to see him continuing to push the boundaries of cinema. He also has a cameo within the film as a Bollywood film director, along with his real life wife, actress Kalki Koechlin, and music director Amit Trivedi, when the movie shifts from Rajasthan to Mumbai.
Ultimately, the film deserves to be watched for the emotional performances by the lead actors and the narrative structure of the film as the story unravels in ways that cannot be predicted (unless you’ve read the original novel, but even then the film is different enough to enjoy on its own merits). “Trishna” is a film worth seeking out, the kind of film that engrosses the viewers as it races to a conclusion that hits a crescendo of emotional resonance.