"There's a kind of strange area with Bollywood and with Indian culture in general. You have strict rules about what you're allowed to show, what you're not allowed to show, what you're allowed to talk about, and what you're not allowed to talk about," Winterbottom says. "The whole idea of dance and beauty and sensuality is part of religion as well as part of culture, obviously—Bollywood certainly."

The film, not unlike its inspiration, suggests that a beautiful, broke girl like Trishna, naive to the ways of the world and of men, would be subject to so many mixed messages and torn in so many different directions that her downfall is inevitable. But rather than merely fuse Hardy's impression of 19th-century England with his own impression of India, Winterbottom brought in elements of nonfiction filmmaking, casting "real" people who could help reflect their own reality. It's Winterbottom's first credit as a solo screenwriter, which he admits is "probably slightly misleading." "A lot of the film was improvised; all the actors could easily have had a writing credit as well.

More Bollywood than Wessex: Freida Pinto in Trishna.
Marcel Zyskind
More Bollywood than Wessex: Freida Pinto in Trishna.

"We changed the story in order to accommodate kind of the reality of what the situation is for people there," he continues. "The dancers in our film are dancers; the hotel workers are hotel workers. They're not actors. We met lots of people who had a very similar story to Trishna's, in that they came from small towns in the countryside and ended up being in the huge commercial center that is Bombay."

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