4th May 2012 5:32am | By Andrew Westbrook
With this timeless, tragic tale of a pure woman struggling through a turbulent world, the ever-versatile British director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) has returned to the works of classic novelist Thomas Hardy for the third time.
Starring: Frieda Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth
On this occasion, he has loosely adapted Tess of the d’Urbevilles, transporting the action from Victorian England to modern-day India. However, while the film’s two main stars are engrossing throughout, as is its rich depiction of the Subcontinent, the inevitable twisting and simplification of the original plot does mean that Trishna at times loses its way.
In a role not dissimilar to her star-making turn in Slumdog Millionaire, Pinto plays the Tess character Trishna, a beautiful and bright peasant girl repeatedly forced into decisions by the necessity to provide for her family.
Meanwhile, in a clever twist on the novel, Ahmed plays Jay, a combination of the two original male leads who persistently seek her favour. Both the carefree playboy Alec and the dominating exploiter Angel are merged with great subtlety into a young British Asian, assigned by his rich father to run a string of hotels across India.
Likewise, the hypocrisies of sexual politics and class privilege fit well in their new surroundings, as the story moves from rural Rajasthan to the more liberal, Bollywood-infused Mumbai. However, while it is a work of beauty throughout, Trishna never quite seems to pull off the dramatic tension that such a compelling story demands.
Verdict: Three stars