In 1891, Thomas Hardy‘s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles was published. It didn’t hit the book seller stalls immediately as it was serialized in a newspaper. While the original publication received mixed reviews, the book would later be called a classic novel and is likely still being read in English Lit classes even today.
The novel was produced as a silent film in 1913 and 1924. In the modern era, in 1979, Roman Polanski adapted the novel and released his film called Tess which starred Nastassja Kinski and Peter Firth. In 2008, the novel was made into a multi-part mini-series which aired on television (on BBC and in the USA on the PBS Masterpiece Classics series).
Which brings us to 2011. British Film Director Michael Winterbottom adapted the novel, or used it as the basis of his film; updating the setting from 19th Century England to the 21st century in modern-day India. Winterbottom has said that during the 19th Century, Britain had evolved from a rural and agrarian economy to a place that was the most dynamic urban and industrialized economy in the world. Yet is was a place where cultural differences not only still existed between the upper and lower class strata of society, but the whole fabric of society was based upon keeping the classes separate. Winterbottom went on to point out that it would be difficult to recreate that period of history, in a period film, in today’s England.
India, on the other hand, still offered, in its small towns and rural areas, places where class differences, economic differences, and cultural and educational differences where right there in front of people; there at the same time as societal changes were occurring. Yet there were still family traditions, outlooks on sexual conduct, and economic and religious customs that were still resistant to changes brought about by modern thinking. So that was thinking and background about why the film was set in India.
Trishna is both a love story and a tragedy. One could say it is the story of a woman who was destroyed by falling in love and her own circumstances.