Directed By: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed

I love movies about Indians.  There's something special about getting exposure to Indian culture on the big screen—their music, their dance, their arts.  These movies are often uniquely enjoyable experiences.  To some extent, it's like traveling without actually going anywhere.  With the British drama Trishna, we get just that, a healthy dose of Indian culture.

Jay (Riz Ahmed) and his friends are traveling in India.  While visiting a local temple in Rajasthan, he notices a beautiful young woman with a child.  Jay again notices the woman working as a server at a party later that night. Enamored by her beauty, he takes the opportunity to introduce himself to the woman this time.  Her name is Trishna.  Jay takes her home that night and witnesses firsthand her family's impoverished lifestyle. It just so happens that Jay is a wealthy businessman, and he's come to India to run his father's hotel.  He offers Trishna a job there and says that he will send her a letter regarding the opportunity.

When Trishna and her father are involved in a car accident that totals her dad's jeep, their already poor family falls on hard times.  As Jay promised, the letter arrives outlining the job offer, and Trishna takes the job at the hotel out of necessity to support her family.  Leaving her family, Trishna embarks on a new chapter of her life.  With the help of Jay, she begins establishing herself as a good worker at the hotel and advancing her education.  Soon enough, she ends up sleeping with Jay and getting into a relationship with him.  After the romance in their relationship dies, Trishna finds herself in a crisis where her values and family traditions conflict with her lifestyle as Jay's girlfriend.

Based on the novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Trishna is a powerful adaptation of Hardy's work that takes us on an emotional rollercoaster.  There's an inescapable underlying fear for the romance between Trishna and Jay as their culture conflicts with their lifestyle.  Given this, there's a gradual transformation throughout the film from a blissful romance to a dark, gloomy drama.  Once that dark tone is established, it remains for the rest of the film and can be felt in little things, even The Lord's Prayer and the Indian National Pledge.

What I love most about Trishna is its setting.  Director Michael Winterbottom completely disregards the English setting used in the source material and gives us India instead.  Given that this is the third adaptation of Hardy's work, this makes the film fresh and innovative.  Because of this creative decision, viewers are exposed to Indian music, Indian dancing, and Indian culture.  Because of this decision, Winterbottom gives us some gorgeous shots of India and some impressive cinematography.  Winterbottom's decision to use India was a smart one, and I'm greatly appreciative of this.  It makes the film so much more colorful and engrossing than just another remake of this English romance drama.

Trishna is a film for which success hinges completely on the performances of its stars.  With this in mind, Freida Pinto makes a statement in this film.  The Slumdog Millionaire star has arrived and is here to stay.  Pinto gives a powerful, moving performance as Trishna.  We gradually watch her life fall apart, and it's incredible to see how her life goes from romantic bliss to inevitable despair.  Pinto's performance is the key to taking us on this emotional rollercoaster to which I referred previously.  As Trishna's romantic interest Jay, Riz Ahmed gives a notable performance as well.  Ahmed initially gives us a young charming guy who eventually becomes a cold-hearted snake in the grass.

Trishna is a movie that is slow at first as the groundwork for the narrative is being laid.  It eventually grabs your attention and never lets go.  With great direction from the Michael Winterbottom, impressive performances from Pinto and Ahmed, and an utterly powerful ending, I definitely recommend this film.  The movie will take you on a refreshingly new version of a classic tale.  Trishna gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.