One of the world’s most beautiful actresses had to play an exterior shell of beauty, with nothing but enigma underneath. Vast provincial differences separate the people of India, many from the small villages live by a more introverted code that honors allegiance to family over individual accomplishments. Freida Pinto dropped in on an IFC Los Angeles screening to talk at an open mic about her new movie Trishna. The film has opened in the United Kingdom already, and comes to select American cities this Friday, July 13th, playing in the U.S. before it even opens in India (where it will likely be heavily censored. Read the movie review: click here.
Pinto plays the titular poor girl from the desert region, a servant without prospects whose beauty catches the attention of a wealthy young man. Pinto has to play a girl who is shy and obedient, and very, very inward – the opposite of who she is. “Where I’m from, we’re happy people!” Pinto says, almost falling out of her interview chair from laughter.
“This is not a Bollywood film,” Pinto explains, although Trishna flirts with the Indian film and music entertainment industry lifestyle briefly as she is whisked off her feet by a successful young man (Riz Ahmed). As a matter of fact, the film has a rather hybrid pedigree. This is the most textured film about India yet, very contemporary and tapped into the myriad cultural-regional differences. The 19th century novel “Tess of the D’Ubervilles” by British author Thomas Hardy is the source material, with themes that correlate more succinctly between class struggles. This sensual love story (heat! steam! eroticism!) is doomed because it is about two societal opposites whom ultimately share a tragic misunderstanding.
“The best thing you can do when you work with Michael Winterbottom is just go with it. When he says to jump up onto that railway station over there and just do a little walk and talk about anything you want…
On reading the Thomas Hardy book:
“When I read the book the first time, the reason why it did not become my instant favorite was because I couldn’t relate to Tess, either. I found her very prosaic and very meek. The opposite of who I am. I did the research for this film and the one thing I missed was the inner strength of these characters. They aren’t weak people, though, I figured out. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to speak up or do not know that concept exists.”
On translating the source novel from British mores to current India:
“I didn’t see it in my own vision. Winterbottom had to convince me that ‘Tess’ could be perfectly adapted to India. I attribute him because he could see how 19th century England and 21st century India have so much in common. The dawn of this whole India becoming this new world economic superpower, and how everybody is trying to get the most of this new development. But some people just fall through the cracks. Like Trishna’s family.”
On adapting to language and dialect specifics:
“I do speak Hindi but I speak a more a more Bombay Hindi – hey-ay-y-y! – which is like gangster! [Laughs] But the real challenge was to learn to speak Marwari which is the language spoken in the state of Rajasthan, India. No one told me until I signed on that there that every hundred kilometers the dialect changes. It was hard, I had twenty days to learn how to speak like Trishna in the village she grew up. Completely its own distinct dialect.”
“We discovered, or learned every day, how far realistically Trishna could go with herself. We did not want to give her too much dialogue, because she had problems with expressing herself. Even be open with her family is not common. Actors like to say things! But we gave the decision to build up her character [indirectly] – we don’t know what she’s thinking – and sure, it was challenging.”
On her upcoming secret project “Knight of Cups” for director Terrence Malick:
“I can’t say anything about the film but I feel ‘Trishna’ prepared me for it.”