'My most demanding role'

Freida Pinto talks to us about her new movie ‘Trishna’.

Umbreen Ali
By Umbreen Ali
Columnist
February 21, 2012, 11:52 am
'My most demanding role'

Dusky, alluring, sultry, these are just a few words that have been used to describe Freida Pinto.

It is hard to believe that the exotic Freida has been in our cinematic lives for a mere four years.

India's sizzling export seduced the world and enchanted our screens as the delightful Latika in Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire'

She has subsequently starred in a string of movies including the blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Quite an accolade at the tender age of 27 for an actress who received no formal training before Slumdog.

Freida also featured in Vogue’s 2009 annual top ten list of the world’s most stylish women, as well as in Askmen.com’s 2010 ‘Top 99 Most Desirable Women’ list. She is also the face of L’Oreal.

Freida, however, proves that she is more than just a pretty face in her latest project, Trishna, an adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Trishna’s director, the brilliant Michael Winterbottom is no stranger to the Hardy novels having already adapted Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Indian woman who exudes an old Hollywood glamour on the red carpet is transformed into Trishna, the nineteen year old daughter of a rickshaw driver who abandons her education and leaves home in order to work and support her family.

‘It has been by far my biggest and most demanding role and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.

“The biggest challenge was adopting Trishna's passivity which is not necessarily her strength or weakness, it is both.’ She says.

This film essentially explores the rigid social and sexual structures in India. It is at work when Trishna meets the affluent Jay who is heir to a hotel chain.

As the protagonists fall in love with each other Freida describes this as the part of the movie ‘where both Jay and Trishna get temporary freedom from everything class-related, where they can just enjoy being together, uninhibited, in the city of Mumbai.

They really discover each other during this time and are passionately in love.’

As Trishna and Jay’s intense relationship develops, Freida describes the liaison as a ‘…mostly tumultuous relationship with him, which eventually leads us into their tragedy.’

Freida sums up the theme of the film and the social and cultural injustice that dominates Trishna’s life, ‘Trishna is constantly torn between her desire to adopt Jay's modernism and urbanity…and the traditional family values and rural roots that she finds hard to ignore. Therein lies her conflict.

“When Jay finally takes her back to Rajasthan after finding out that she has been hiding a secret from him, she is in a way made to accept the unfairness that she has always been subjected to.”

Jay and Trishna encounter seduction, abandonment and male dominance over women. The trajectory towards tragedy includes a secret abortion and a murder.

Freida describes the change in their relationship as one where, ‘…she suffers and he becomes increasingly aggressive in the way he treats her, their relationship degenerates into something almost vile.’

With the movie filmed in Rajasthan and Mumbai, we wonder if any social parallels can be drawn from that which is depicted in the movie to today’s rural and urban classes in India.

Freida deliberates, ‘There are still a few rigid ways and blind faith beliefs, social class system and casteism - that serve as hindrances in a few small towns and villages in the interiors of the country but despite that conscious efforts are being made to ensure that the need for basic education to children – male and female is met and adequate support to see it through is provided for.’

With an intimately small sized crew and with much of the dialogue in the movie originating from improvisation,

Freida describes the creative freedom Winterbottom extended to the cast during filming. “Oh yes - the dancing! I accompanied one of the crew members on a recce a month before we started filming to get a better sense of the culture I was going to dive into.

“It’s obviously not enough to just be an Indian to play this character.

“Rajasthan is vastly different from Mumbai. I met a lot of families, young girls working at hotels, recorded videos and audio tapes, went to local schools, spoke to students there and got interesting insights on their dreams and aspirations and the hurdles they come across in accomplishing those dreams. For me, my research consisted of studying people.

‘The fact that…we never had a script was my favourite part…I learnt to speak a bit of Marvadi and of course learning the traditional Rajasthani dance moves was fun.’

The affable, delightful and sensuous Ms Pinto has captivated cinema audiences having catapulted to stardom in Slumdog.

Now she proves her versatility as an actress in a role that can only be described as challenging. We wonder with anticipation what comes next for the enigmatic and iridescent Freida.

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