Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed
Plot: The story of the tragic relationship between the son of a property developer and the daughter of an auto rickshaw owner.
Rating: M18 for sexuality and a disturbing scene of violence.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
The jury is still out if Frieda Pinto has successfully built on her newfound fame after starring in the breakout role as Lakita in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire (2008). She's not exactly a fast-rising actress that is in hot demand, but at least she's alternating between mainstream Hollywood blockbusters like Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Immortals (2011), and riskier 'art-house' fare such as Miral (2010) and Trishna, giving her good exposure to casual moviegoers and serious film enthusiasts alike.
The new Michael Winterbottom film sees Pinto plays the lead character Trishna, opposite Riz Ahmed (The Road to Guantanamo, 2006; Four Lions, 2010), who plays her lover Jay.
Any notion that Trishna would be a typical romance-drama, albeit a tragic one, goes out of the cinematic window once Winterbottom's cinematography (lensed by frequent collaborator Marcel Zyskind) kicks in with full force in its first shot.
With a fluid visual style that captures the vibrancy of the culture that the story is set in, the film creates authentic energy through its beautiful imagery and its use of ambient sounds. Shot on location in India, Trishna takes a century-old novel called 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy, and adapts it for the big screen, but more crucially, adapts it for a more modern and culturally-tolerant age.
Winterbottom seems to have an affinity for the literature of Hardy; Trishna is his third screen adaptation of the author's work after Jude (1996) and The Claim (2000). But it is the director's vision of delivering cross-cultural cinema that makes Trishna as culturally insightful, though not nearly as captivating, as his more acclaimed features like Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) and In This World (2002).
Pinto's performance is good, but not particularly eye-catching, though it must be said that this might be her most challenging role to date because it requires her to do intimate sex scenes (that are integral to how the film will shape up in its last act), which have so far eluded her as an actress. Her chemistry with Ahmed is serviceable, but their spark seems to be missing.
The story feels like it is lacking in narrative drive, but its slow pacing is generally alleviated by the frequent injection of scenes of life in rural and urban India. Like I've mentioned earlier, Trishna exudes authentic energy from its imagery and sound, rather than through the rendezvous of its characters.
Which is a bit of a pity.
The personal motivations of Trishna and Jay are not always clearly fleshed out. And for this reason, the final act doesn't work out as strongly as it should've been. Ironically, Trishna's last twenty minutes feels too rushed, and appears to force itself on the viewer, rather than being allowed to run its course. Still, Winterbottom's film is an accessible cultural exercise, despite being a non-mainstream film.
Verdict: Culturally vibrant and well-shot, Trishna unfortunately suffers in its final act.
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