26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Screenwriter/director: Michael Winterbottom, Madman Entertainment.

Cast: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Meeta Vashisht, Harish Khanna, Roshan Seth, Anurag Kashyap.

A story of love and tragedy, this beautifully shot tale (on DVD) is set across modern day rural Rajasthan and the thriving metropolis of Mumbai in India.

An adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, this is an unconvincing contemporary melodrama.

Ahmed plays Jay, a wealthy young Englishman, who is smitten by Trishna (Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire) after visiting a temple in Rajasthan.

Jay comes from a wealthy background, having returned to India to work in his father’s hotel business. Trishna has lived a poor, sheltered life, so Jay helps to get her a job in the hotel industry and pays for her hospitality training. Being the sole provider for her family since her father’s accident, Trishna reluctantly agrees to leave Rajasthan and they gradually fall in love.

Even though they’re attracted to each other, their relationship must remain a secret due to the norms of a traditional society and conflicting pressures.

As time passes, the relationship begins to transform and Jay’s true character emerges.

While Jay’s acting lacks depth, Pinto acts well in portraying the anguish required of Trishna, who finds herself torn between her family, a life of new freedom and the reality of her problematic liaison.

Director Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart, Genova) fails to deliver on a classic tragedy and misses out on capturing credibility in the heat of passion in the story’s climax.

India always fascinates with its intricacies and grandeur, but Winterbottom dodges any attempt to emotionalise, with even the film’s pragmatism emitting an unfeeling severity.

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