2011 Running time: 113 Certificate: 15 Rating: 3

Synopsis

Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles is transplanted to contemporary India in director Michael Winterbottom's slow-burning drama. Four Lions' Riz Ahmed plays a rich slacker who seduces Freida Pinto's peasant girl and persuades her to work at his father's luxury hotel. However, the caste system proves an impenetrable barrier and she is forced to endure heartbreak and humiliation as their unequal love affair ebbs and flows.

Director

  • Michael Winterbottom

Cast

  • Riz Ahmed

  • Freida Pinto

  • Roshan Seth

  • Neet Mohan

Review

In his third adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel (after Jude and The Claim), Michael Winterbottom transposes the 19th century depression-era rural England of Tess of the d'Urbervilles to the India of today.

Freida Pinto plays Trishna, a lowly-born peasant girl who catches the eye of Riz Ahmed's wealthy, English-educated soclalite Jay and accepts the offer of a chambermaid's post at his father's luxury hotel in Rajasthan.

Throwing herself into her new job with gusto, she finds herself falling for the attentive young chap and is seduced into spending the night with him, an encounter that leaves her pregnant.

Fleeing the hotel in shame, she returns home where her income is missed and she is forced to go and live in the city with her bedridden aunt and work in a tobacco factory.

However, the persistent Jay - distraught after her sudden disappearance - turns up and persuades her to join him in the thrusting new city of Mumbai, where he's producing a Bollywood movie.

Their happiness appears complete...until Trishna confesses that she aborted their child and he has to head back to London to care for his ailing father.

Transferring Victorian's England's inhumanely rigid class pecking order to the equally inflexible inequalities of the Indian caste system works a treat.

And Winterbottom's regular cinematographer Marcel Zyskind vividly captures the rich textures of contemporary India, from the worn-away wonders of its ancient sites to its dynamic 21st century cities.

However, there's an awkward clashing of dramatic gears: Jay's transition from an almost brotherly concern to caddish cruelty jars while Trishna's silent agonies are never fully conveyed by Pinto's beautiful but blank screen presence.

Still, it's a bold venture that goes some way to evoking both the new and old worlds that make India such a compelling enigma.

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