Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth, Kalki Koechlin, Anurag Kashyap, Aakash Dahiya 15A cert, IFI/Light House, Dublin, 113 min
Michael Winterbottom relocates Thomas Hardy novel to India for a colourful if slightly under-powered melodrama, writes DONALD CLARKE
FIFTEEN YEARS after directing an impressively grubby version of J ude the Obscure, Michael Winterbottom returns to Thomas Hardy with this eccentric variation on Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Sticking to the barest bones of Hardy’s plot, the director has moved the setting to contemporary India. It’s a very pretty looking thing (maybe a little too pretty) featuring strong performances from both leads. But the central relationship never quite makes sense, and the inevitable closing catastrophe seems beamed in from another century.
Trishna (Freida Pinto), a poor girl from a Rajasthan, falls in with Jay (Riz Ahmed), a rich young Indian raised in England who has recently moved back to run his father’s hotel. Jay offers Trishna a job and, avoiding the suspicious glares of the other workers, they embark on a passionate relationship.
Later Jay decides to launch a career as a film producer. The couple move to Bombay, and, now living together openly, savour that relatively liberal’s city’s bohemian social life. Then a breach occurs and he starts to turn sullen.
On a purely superficial level, Trishnais a delight to behold. Winterbottom’s mobile camera does a fine job of conveying the vibrancy of Bombay and the steamy beauty of Rajasthan. The movie stays just the right side of travelogue as, accompanied by a clever score from Amit Trivedi and Shigeru Umebayashi, it meanders towards its tragic close.
It seems churlish to point out that if you stripped away all that colour you would be left with about half an hour of plot. It seems meaner still to complain that the eventual division between Jay and Trishna is very eccentrically calibrated. He certainly turns nasty. But he is not quite diabolical enough to justify the extent of Trishna’s eventual emotional meltdown.
Whereas Hardy’s novel came across as a soul-stretching melodrama, Trishna, for all its beautiful packaging, occasionally resembles a superior episode of EastEnders.
Still, the film is brave in its ambition and elegant in its execution. A decent option in a poor week for new releases.