While Dev Patel is busy packing tables in the recently released The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, his girlfriend Freida Pinto is waiting tables in Trishna, an adaption of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of d’Ubervilles. This is director Michael Winterbottom’s third adaption from a Hardy novel, and while it is colourful and dramatic, it lacks coherence and could do with some serious re-cutting.

Trishna follows the journey of a simple girl from a traditional Rajasthan family who attracts the attention of a wealthy young, Indo-British man Jay — in India to help his father run his luxury hotel business. The pair secretly fall in love, and move to Mumbai, where both nurture dreams of making it big in Bollywood. A twist however forces them to return to Rajasthan, where their relationship takes a turn for the worse.

Tess of the ‘Dubervilles was set in Britain, but Winterbottom has set his story in present day India. This gives the movie a multi layered strength: both of reality and of pathos. He brings out beautifully the contrast between the rural and the fast paced city life in India.

That being said, the film is handicapped by a confusing script and weak performances. Pinto fails to deliver again; her expressionless face fails to give any life to Trishna’s character. While Riz Ahmed gives a passable performance, you are not sure how the amiable suave Jay turns into the rough and aggressive lover.

You get frustrated with Trishna’s characterisation too. In modern India, where there is every opportunity to escape, she nods at every suggestion made by Jay and follows him around wherever he asks her to. It could’ve been saved if Pinto had given a substantial performance, bringing out a complex character.

The chemistry between Pinto and Ahmed is very strong, with an overdose of steamy scenes. But the films meandering movement and script make it a bit dull, simply because there’s no logical sequence in it.

India is more than just a backdrop for the movie. Brilliant cinematography (Marcel Zyskind) captures the country in a distinct style, right from the crowded streets of Jaipur to the metropolitan streets of Mumbai. The songs by Amit Trivedi are the highlight of the movie, as they prove to be a soothing relief to otherwise prosaic and overtly repetitive shots Trishna walking on the streets.

The movie starts off with the Jay and his friends travelling around India, and not with Trishna. The climax of the movie is quite jarring to the rest of the story, especially when Trishna has been given no memorable lines to speak out. It makes you wonder if Trishna has become just a mere passer-by in her own story.