Freida Pinto as Trishna in Michael Winterbottom's TRISHNA. Photo by Marcel Zyskind. A Sundance Selects release.
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Opened: 07/13/2012 Limited
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: British Drama
Rated: R for for sexuality, some violence, drug use and language.
A bold new adaptation of the new novel "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"
Based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, master filmmaker Michael Winterbottom's newest film stars Freida Pinto who soars as Trishna in her most revealing performance yet.
Trishna lives with her family in a village in Rajasthan, India's largest state. As the eldest daughter, she works in a nearby resort to help pay the bills. Jay (Riz Ahmed, FOUR LIONS) is the wealthy son of a property developer. When he takes up managing a resort at his father's request, he meets Trishna at a dance and their fates cross. Jay finds every opportunity to win Trishna's affection and she accepts his efforts with shy curiosity. But when the two move to Mumbai and become a couple, Jay's deep family bond threatens the young lovers' bliss.
Shot with Winterbottom's agile camera, TRISHNA is a powerful look at the tension between ancient privilege and modern equality, between codes of urban and rural life and ultimately a hymn to both the glory and the tragedy that comes with beauty in all forms.
I first had the idea of making TRISHNA eight or nine years ago. We were working on a film called Code 46 and we shot for a few days in Rajasthan. On one of the recces we visited the desert outside Osian.
I was with some crew from Mumbai, and there was an incredible contrast between the life of the crew from Mumbai and the people of the village, whose lives were just beginning to change with the forces of mechanization, industrialization, urbanization and above all education. That reminded me of Thomas Hardy, and in particular Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Hardy was describing a similar moment in English life. A moment when, in the nineteenth century, the conservative rural communities were being transformed by the agricultural and industrial revolutions, when fewer and fewer people were being employed on the land, so people moved to the local towns or cities.
The railways provided greater possibilities of movement, and education started to offer the possibility of social mobility. Tess is a character who has more education than her parents, who doesn't speak the local dialect like her parents, who feels slightly set apart from the other dairy maids she works with and can dream of a better life. Tess's tragedy is that she has one foot in the fixed, old rural world, and one foot in the new, mobile, urban world.
-- Michael Winterbottom, Director
Q&A with Director Michael Winterbottom
Why did you decide to make the TRISHNA now?
We tried to make TRISHNA back in 2004 and our casting director went to India to look for someone who could play the title role, but she didn't find anyone. It was only when we thought of Freida (Pinto) and Riz (Ahmed) playing the roles that we started over again.
This marks your third time filming in India?
It is the third time that I have filmed in India but this is the first film I have made that is set in India. We did a few days filming on Code 46 -- but that was mixed in with locations in China and Dubai. And we shot the interiors on A Mighty Heart in India, but the rest of that film was shot in Pakistan -- where the story took place. It was frustrating working in India in the past, and not actually telling a story that is set there. So this was a totally different experience. We were able to locate the story in a very specific place. We spent a lot of time talking to people in Rajasthan -- and specifically in Osian and Jodhpur -- about the story, and how it would make sense in their lives. And in the end we found a family whose father drives a Jeep -- the Jeep we use in the film -- and we used them and their house and so on -- and inserted our characters into their world. Then when Jay and Trishna move to Mumbai they are on the fringe of the Bollywood industry. So, the people we were working with, like Anurag Kashyap and Amit Trivedi, their world became the world within our film.
Had India changed since you last worked there?
Certainly Rajasthan had changed from when we worked there in 2003. The biggest visible change was that there was a lot more irrigation. There had also been more rain in the area than last time we were there. But a lot of farmers now irrigate, so where there was only desert before, you now see fields of vegetables. And we came across a lot of schools where they have made a big effort to make sure that all the children -- boys and girls -- stayed on at school until they were sixteen or so.
This is your third Hardy adaptation
Sort of. The Claim was loosely based on Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, but that wasn't the starting point for the film. We wanted to make an Irish western and the writer suggested using Hardy's story. But yes, Jude and Trishna are both deliberate adaptations.
Why? What's the fascination with Hardy's work?
I love Hardy. I first read him when I was a teenager and I loved him then. He is a great story-teller. Both Jude and Tess are great love stories. He achieves something very particular. He gives you a very intimate portrait of his hero or heroine, but he also shows the bigger picture, how their lives are determined or at least affected, by the way in which society is organized. He is much more radical than many people think. And he's more optimistic. In Jude he points out that maybe Jude's grandchildren will be able to achieve the education that Jude wanted. There is a similar note at the end of Tess, where her younger sister goes off with Angel. That seems to me to have very powerful echoes in a country like India, which is so dynamic, which has such a rapidly growing middle class, which is so aspirational and where education is transforming peoples lives -- even in rural communities like Osian.
What were the big changes you made to the story?
Well the biggest I guess was in combining two characters into one. In Tess there are Angel and Alec, the spiritual versus the sensual. I think most people are a combination of both. And having worked with Riz before I thought he was capable of bringing out that complexity in Jay. He does fall in love with Trishna, but he is rich and young and wants immediate gratification. If he stood back, he would realize that the consequences for Trishna of what he does would be huge, whereas he, as a man, and as a rich man, can get away with whatever he likes. Then in terms of context -- besides mobility and education and urbanization TRISHNA is also set in a world where international tourism has a big impact. Tourism is a big industry in Rajasthan. It has contradictory effects. It provides opportunities for work and careers. The other characters in our film who work in the hotels -- Rita, Chanchal and Manisha are played by people who do work in tourism. They are young, college-educated articulate women who hope to have a good career. But tourism also recreates a sort of neocolonialism where rich westerners can live in palaces and be waited on hand and foot. This has an echo in the original story. Alec d'Urberville is the son of a factory owner from the north of England who has come south and bought an old manor house and is pretending to be aristocratic. Jay's father has done the same. Having made his money in property in England, he has returned to India to buy up some of his country's heritage. Jay, like Alec, is the son who has had it too easy. He's been spoilt by not having to work or to make his own way in the world. Trishna is the opposite. She has the burden not only of looking after herself, but also her family. Another change is that in Hardy's story Tess gives birth to a child, who dies. Researching in Rajasthan, everyone told us that if an unmarried girl got pregnant the family would want to try and get an abortion before any other people became aware that she was pregnant.
How were Freida and Riz to work with?
They were both fantastic to work with. I'd worked with Riz before on THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO. So I knew that he knew what to expect. We work with quite a small crew, on real locations, with a lot of non-actors and a lot of improvisation. Riz is a very intelligent actor. I think this is the first time he's really played a leading man kind of role, a romantic lead, and he really stepped up to the mark. You have to be able to like Jay, and at the same time see his weaknesses. Freida was lovely to work with. Trishna is a huge role -- she's in almost every scene -- she goes from working in fields to dancing in Bollywood and back again. So it is a big journey. She is the centre of the film. Hardy is always pointing out that Tess is opaque, passive, a canvas on which Angel and Alec paint their own different fantasies, until finally she acts. I think Freida has that great ability to make you want to watch her, to imagine what is going on inside her head. Jay imagines she is simpler than she is. That is what destroys their relationship and leads to her final rebellion.
You always work with a small team of people. Tell us about that team.
We are quite a small team. And a lot of us know each other pretty well. Melissa Parmenter the producer started at Revolution 10 years ago, Amy Jackson (production manager) about 5 or 6 years ago, Anthony Wilcox has probably done 7 or 8 films with us, Marcel Zyskind our cinematographer more than 10 I think, Josh Hyams started work at Revolution 7 or 8 years ago, Will the sound recordist has done 3 or 4 films, Dave Bryan the designer, first worked with us 11 or 12 years ago. So that makes it a lot easier. Working in India, especially trying to film your characters in and amongst the real world, can be tricky. So it is great to work with people you know and trust.
Would you call this a Bollywood film?
No. But there are similarities between Hardy's storytelling and traditional Bollywood material. This is a melodrama, a love story, the story of a poor girl falling in love with a rich man and being carried away. It's also set partly in Mumbai where Jay wants to make films. We had a close collaboration with Anurag Kashyap and his film company who are making a kind of new wave of films, working in Bollywood, but telling stories their own way. Like a Bollywood film we use a lot of music. We have four songs by Amit Trivedi -- a very successful composer in Mumbai -- and also a beautiful soundtrack by Shigeru Umebayashi who did the score for In The Mood For Love, and of course we have lots of dancing. So the film has one foot in Bollywood -- and it has already been bought to be released in India .
Trishna is torn between tradition and her own dreams and ambitions. With the speed at which India is changing, how do you think the new India that's emerging will ultimately change the lives of women like Trishna in the coming years?
One of the sights that you notice straight away is groups of children at dawn or just after setting off for their school, often walking several kilometres to get there. We visited a lot of schools in and around Osian during the preproduction period of TRISHNA. All the schools we visited were making a big effort to encourage boys and girls to stay on at school at least to 10th grade, but often to 12th grade and college afterwards. I think there is a realization that education is important. So people like Pratiksh, Leela and Lakshman, the children playing Trishna's brothers and sisters, all want a good education. At a different level Minakshi, Manisha and Chanchal, the women playing the hotel workers whom Trishna meets, they've all been to college and have got a job and want a career and see the tourism industry as one route to a career that can provide interesting work and a good salary. So the situation for women in Rajasthan is changing. But when society is changing individuals can suffer. Trishna can see the possibilities for a life that wouldn't have been there for her mother, but these hopes and dreams are the very thing that leads to her tragedy.
What are the day-to-day logistical challenges of shooting in India?
I've worked in India twice before and I think on those occasions it has been the most difficult country that I have filmed in. For all sorts of reasons. But on this shoot things went pretty smoothly, especially in Rajasthan. We worked with a local location manager and shot in a lot of locations which you might expect to be difficult, but we had really great co-operation from the people in Osian and Jodhpur and Jaipur and Samode. Everyone was incredibly generous and helpful and to be honest we didn't have that many nightmares. Mumbai was harder, but that is just the nature of a big city.
You've worked with Riz before, but not with Freida -- how did you prepare for the shoot with the actors?
I worked with Riz ON THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO and I think that was his first acting job. So I knew that he would be right for the part of Jay. The only preparation we had was talking in England about the role, because he came straight from the set of Black Gold to Rajasthan. With Freida we had a little more time. She came to Rajasthan and met people working in the hotels. She spent a bit of time with a couple of families which we thought were similar to Trishna's. She practised her dancing. All the practical things she needed to play the role.
Riz said Jay is 'bewitched' by Trishna at the beginning and Freida is equally bewitching on screen. What is it about her that brings that quality? How does she work on a day-to-day basis?
Well obviously Freida is very beautiful. So that helps. But she is also very straightforward, very easy to work with. Very sympathetic. And all these qualities were important for Trishna. But in Hardy's story it is important that you don't know exactly what she is feeling or thinking. There is an opaque quality, an enigmatic quality. I think Freida pulls this off very well. So we have to guess what is going on in her head. And sometimes to be frustrated by her passivity. In terms of Freida's technique you'd have to ask her. For me it is just a case of watching what an actor is doing on set and adjusting it if i think it is necessary.
The sense of place and environment in your work is always very strong. What were the most important aspects with regard to look and feel on Trishna?
Hardy frequently moves away from Tess's individual story and puts it in context - how it would be for other people rather than Tess. I think that was the most important aspect of the filming for us - to be with Trishna and Jay, but then to see the other people, to see the family, or the city, or the workers in the field or the factory or the hotel. To provide a context for the story, to give some sense of the connections between Trishna's story and the world around her.
About the Cast
Freida Pinto (Trishna)
After becoming a fixture on the big screen with the critically and commercially acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire, Freida Pinto is quickly becoming an international film star and household name. She garnered international attention for her debut film role as Latika in Slumdog Millionaire and was nominated for "Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture" for her role at the 2009 BAFTA Awards. The movie itself won 8 Academy Awards including "Best Motion Picture" and had another 100 wins and 51 nominations. Pinto can currently be seen in The Weinstein Company's Miral, a drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict from Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel. Pinto stars opposite James Franco in the hugely successful summer blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the. In October Black Gold, starring Antonio Banderas, will have its world premiere in Doha, Qatar at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. In November, she can be seen starring in Immortals opposite Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke which is loosely based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy.
She recently finished shooting Trishna in India for director Michael Winterbottom. This film is a modern day retelling of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. It has it's world premiere at Toronto and will also be screened at the London Film Festival. Prior to these films, Pinto starred in Sony Pictures Classics ensemble You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger from director Woody Allen alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. Before hitting the big screen, Pinto made her mark anchoring Full Circle a travel show which was telecast on Zee International Asia Pacific. She went on assignments to Afghanistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Fiji among other countries. Pinto currently resides between Mumbai and London and is a spokesperson for L'Oreal Paris.
Riz Ahmed (Jay)
Since graduating from Oxford University in 2004 and the Central School of Speech and Drama in 2005, Riz Ahmed has worked consistently in film, theatre and television. His first feature, the controversial and gripping docu-drama: The Road to Guantanamo, directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, won a number of awards, including the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and Best British Documentary at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs) in 2006. Riz saw continued success with his next feature Shifty, directed by Eran Creevy, which saw him win Best Actor at the Geneva Film Festival and received a nomination for Best Actor at the BIFAs. In 2009 Riz appeared in Sally Potter's experimental film Rage, which co-starred Judi Dench and Jude Law, and in Neil Marshall's Scottish set, roman epic Centurion. His most recent work includes Four Lions, the debut feature from director Chris Morris, which premiered in official competition at Sundance, and for which he received the BIFA nomination for best actor, Ill Manors written and directed by Ben Drew aka Plan B, and he has recently completed shooting with director Jean Jacques Annaud's on his next feature Black Gold. Riz has also starred in a number of notable UK dramas including Britz, directed by Peter Kosminsky for Channel 4 which won Best Drama at the Television BAFTAs and Best Drama at The Royal Television Society Awards, as well as receiving an Emmy nomination. His other television work includes the acclaimed series Dead Set directed by Yann Demange, and Dominic Savage's Freefall. Riz's stage work has included performances at the English National Opera in Gaddafi: A Living Myth for David Freeman and in Prayer Room for Angus Jackson, initially performed at the Edinburgh International Festival. Riz also has an active music career as Riz MC (www.myspace.com/rizmc)
About the Crew
Michael Winterbottom (Director/Writer/Producer)
Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, Michael Winterbottom studied English at Oxford. His films include Butterfly Kiss (Official Competition -- Berlin Film Festival 1995); Jude (Director's Fortnight -- Cannes Film Festival 1996, Winner of Michael Powell Award -- EIFF); Welcome to Sarajevo (Official selection - Cannes Film Festival 1998); I Want You (In Competition Berlin Film Festival 1998); cf(In Competition - Cannes Film Festival, Winner of Best British Film -- British Independent Film Awards 1999); The Claim (In Competition Berlin Film Festival); 24 Hour Party People (In Competition Cannes Film Festival 2002), In This World (Winner Golden Bear -- Berlin International Film Festival 2003); Code 46 ( In Competition Venice Film Festival 2003); 9 Songs (Best Cinematography -- San Sebastian Film Festival 2004); A Cock and Bull Story (Toronto Film Festival 2005); Road to Guantanamo ( Silver Bear Best Director -- Berlin Film Festival 06); A Mighty Heart (Official Selection Cannes Film Festival 2007); Genova ( Best Director -- San Sebastian Film Festival, 2008); The Shock Doctrine ( Sundance Film Festival, 2009); and The Killer Inside Me (In Competition -- Berlin Film Festival 2010), The Trip (Toronto Film Festival 2010).
Melissa Parmenter (Producer)
During the past 10 years Melissa has been working as Producer and Line Producer for Andrew Eaton and Michael Winterbottom's Production Company Revolution Films. Together with Andrew Eaton, Melissa has recently Produced Michael Winterbottom's TV comedy series called The Trip (starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) for BBC 2. Before this, Melissa Co-Produced The Shock Doctrine which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009 and was directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross. In 2008 Melissa was the Line Producer on Michael Winterbottom's film Genova (starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis). Melissa's first film as Producer was in 2004 when she Produced Top Spot, Directed by the renowned British Artist Tracey Emin. The film was funded by the BBC and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2005. This was followed by Michael Winterbottom's film 9 Songs (starring Margo Stilley, Kieran O'Brien) on which Melissa was Associate Producer and Music Supervisor. In 2006 Melissa Produced along side Andrew Eaton the documentary The Road to Guantanamo directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross. The film went on to win the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2007. As well as Producing, Melissa composed the score for Michael Winterbottom's film The Killer Inside Me (starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson) and also Genova (2008). Melissa's piano music also featured in A Mighty Hear (Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman), 9 Songs, and Tracey Emin's Top Spot.
Marcel Zyskind (Director Of Photography)
Born in 1979, Marcel Zyskind is relatively young to be such an accomplished DoP. Marcel is best known for his frequent collaborations with director Michael Winterbottom, which include Trishna, The Killer Inside Me, Genova, A Mighty Heart, The Road to Guantanamo, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, 9 Songs, Code 46 and In this World. Other films include Bullet Boy for director Saul Dibb and the recent Mammoth, for director Lukas Moodysson. Marcel won the highly regarded cinematography award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2004 for his work on Nine Songs and has twice been a nominee for the best cinematographer award at the European Film Academy Awards, for In This World in 2002 (shared with Alwin Kuchler) and Code 46 in 2003.
Shigeru Umebayashi (Composer/Original Score)
Shigeru Umebayashi is an internationally renowned composer best known for creating "Yumeji's Theme" in Wong Kar Wai's film "In The Mood For Love". In addition to also collaborating with Wong Kar Wai on "2046", Umebayashi was the music producer and composer for Zhang Yimous' films "House of Flying Daggers" and "Curse of The Golden Flower". In "House of Flying Daggers", he composed the song "Lovers" with soprano Kathleen Battle. Umebayashi has proven his versatility in world cinema, working with such directors as Hong Kong's Ronny Yu for Jet Li's "Fearless", Italy's Roberta Torre for "The Dark Sea", Serbia's Uros Stojanovic for "Tears for Sale", and England's Peter Webber for "Hannibal Rising". Umebayashi was also the music producer and composer for Germany's Veit Helmer for "Absurdistan" and British director Sharon Maguire for "Incendiary" starring Michelle Williams and Ewan MacGregor. His documentary film "Dream Weavers - Beijing 2008" won multiple international awards. In 2009, He composed music for "A Single Man," directed by Tom Ford, then he joined as a film composer of "Days of Grace" directed by Everardo Gout, which was screening in Cannes Film Festival 2011. Beginning the first concert of his film music was held in Ghent, Belgium on 2009, he is expanding his concert in Europe now. (Krakow, Poland -- May 2010, Athens Greece -- Dec. 2010, Tenerife, Spain -- July 2011)
Amit Trivedi (Composer/Original Songs)
Amit Trivedi was born and raised in Mumbai India and is now one of the m. He began his music career working on live shows for Navratri. Amit then moved into advertising for 5 years working with brands such as McDonalds, Airtel & Surf, as well as composing music for a number of television series. In 2004 Sony BMG approached Amit to compose songs for the first Indian Idol series. In 2008, Amit composed score for Raj Kumar Gupta's film 'Aamir' followed in 2009 with work on Anurag Kashyap's 'Dev D' and Ayan Mukerji's 'Wake Up Sid' amongst others. In 2010 Amit and Anurag Kashyap reunited on the film 'Udaan'. That same year Amit worked with Rajshree Ojha on 'Aisha'. In 2011, Amit worked with Raj Kumar Gupta on 'No One Killed Jessica', as well as Onir's 'I AM', Nitish Tiwari and Vikas Bahl's 'Chillar Party' and Michael Winterbottom's 'Trishna'. To date Amit has won an array of awards for his work including; the Mirchi Music Award for most popular song 'Ik Taara' from 'Wake up Sid': Star screen award for best background score 'Dev D': Filmfare award for Best Background score 'Dev D': Filmfare RD Burman award for new Music talent for 'Dev D' and 'Wake up Sid': Giffoni film festival, Music award (2010) for Best Soundtrack 'Udaan': GIMA award for the most popular song -- 'Ik Taara', 'Wake Up Sid': the National award for Best Music 'Dev D': Filmfare award for Best Background score -- 'Udaan': and Global Indian Film and Television Award -- Best Background score -- 'Udaan'.
David Bryan (Production Designer)
After leaving Grammar School David pursued a career in Motor Vehicle Engineering and Design before seizing the opportunity to form a band called the Whizz Kids. Several years in the music Industry, with various labels and a cult following saw a change of direction, Now married and working in Theatre production design with his wife Fran, moving into Television and subsequently Feature Films. He has worked on several Michael Winterbottom Films including I Want You, 24 Hour Party People, In this World and A Mighty Heart and has also worked extensively abroad on Nick Broomfield's Battle For Haditha and Katherine Bigalow's Hurt Locker which awarded him the Art Directors Guild of America's Best Design for Contemporary Film 2010. The chance to work on Trishna shooting in Rajastan was a highlight of his career to date.
Mags Arnold (Editor)
Mags Arnold entered the film industry in 1993 as a trainee sound editor, crossing over to picture editing as second assistant editor in 1994. She was promoted to first assistant editor in 1995, working on films such as High Fidelity and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, both under celebrated editor Mick Audsley. In 2000, after numerous short films edited after hours on borrowed feature film equipment, she was offered her first feature film as editor: My Little Eye. It was shot entirely on Sony DV cam, with 30% of its material captured on a domestic DV camera, the kind used for home movies. It was also the first studio picture in the UK to be cut on Final Cut Pro. Critically acclaimed, My Little Eye has since become a horror classic, described by one critic as the scariest film since The Exorcist. Mags has since collaborated with the director of My Little Eye, Marc Evans, on Trauma, starring Colin Firth and Mena Suvari; Snow Cake, starring Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Anne Moss; and most recently on the feature-length documentary In Prison My Whole Life. Trishna is the third time that Mags has cut for Michael Winterbottom, having previously worked with him on The Killer Inside Me and The Trip.