Poverty, without her father's illusions of grandeur, is the reason behind sending Trishna away from home to help her family survive. However, this does not make up for the emptiness she feels and the sense of having been abandoned, which turn her into such an easy prey in the eyes of Jay. He builds her the premises of a golden cage -treats her gentlemanlike, sends a TV to her room, teaches her to bird-whistle, encourages her to further her education- only to gain her trust, make her more vulnerable and take advantage of her. Though the infamous rape scene fails to appear, it is insinuated by Trishna's state of mind. Scared, she runs away from the hotel and returns to her parents' house only to discover that she is with child, a burden to the poor family who, again, sends her off to work for her uncle. Jay traces her down, works his magic on her and sweeps her away to the glittering world of Mumbai.
Hardy loyalists will be slightly disappointed as there is no longer a love triangle, since Jay embodies both Angel and Alec; he is an angel and a demon, a saviour and an executioner. His initial infatuation grows into a sexual tension that takes off and grows into a mutually-consent, beautiful love story between two young people with different social backgrounds, then slides aggressively into master-servant, abusing sex encounters, culminating with his murder. However, his acting is brilliant, complex and rich and builds up to the success of the story. Although they make a connection, the outer pressure alters the freshness and innocence of their feelings. The happiness they seem to have found in Mumbai is short lived and although the viewer is easily tricked into believing this is a happy-end story, his father's sickness bursts their bubble. Jay goes to London, she is forced to leave the apartment they shared, and move with friends. Having to return to Rajasthan to take care of the hotel brings out the worst in Jay; he starts drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, getting physically rough in the sex scenes. At this point, Trishna acts out on her frustrations and takes the course of action back to Hardy's heroine: she stabs the cruel Jay several times and dashes off, keeping the knife. The same knife, she uses later to take her own life.
What I liked about this film, was the compelling acting, the stunning music and the strength of the director's updates of this classical story of the world literature. I was not bothered by the alteration of the initial story -the newly-born child that dies a few weeks later is replaced by an abortion, she commits suicide instead of being apprehended by the law, there is a combination of the two lovers in Jay- on the contrary, I feel Winterbottom's approach enriched Hardy's novel and emphasised the differences between backgrounds in terms of economic structure or social India. Trishna's final gesture gives boldness to a docile, submissive poor girl whose fate hasn't belonged to her so far. Frieda Pinto has a touching performance, with subtle movements and soft gazes, with a sensual obedience- an aspiring dancer trapped between two worlds who fails to come to life.