Trishna is a film directed by Michael Winterbottom and stars Frieda Pinto and Riz Ahmed. The fascinating thing about this is that it’s a film adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a novel by Thomas Hardy but instead of taking place in late 1800s England, it’s set in modern day India.
The film follows the the difficult love affair between Trishna (Pinto), the daughter of a rickshaw owner, and Jay (Ahmed), the son of a wealthy hotel businessman. Suffice to say, I’m instantly enchanted by this trailer and I am extremely happy that Freida is getting more noticed because her beauty is tremendous.
But moving past my adoration for Freida, let’s get down to the discussion I want to have that is inspired by this upcoming film. This adaptation makes me think of all the talks, protests, and controversies of adaptations of Asian stories and properties (most recent notorious examples being the upcoming Akira, The Last Airbender, and Dragonball). I have nothing against remakes of Asian films as long as they try to bring something new to the table and the only recent successful one that I can think of that did that was The Departed, which was an adaptation of the Hong Kong original Infernal Affairs. While it was nearly a play by play of the original film, the American remake was able to bring a distinct Boston Irish aspect to the story and I bought it.
This seems to be an exception as most remakes of Asian films aren’t even that well planned out or creative. There are some stories that are so integrated with Asian culture that when Hollywood literally tries to set it in America, it has a hard time doing so. Case in point: Akira.
On the flip side, I can think of a few examples where Asian films have taken American or British stories and adapted them. Akira Kurosawa has done two tremendous adaptations of Shakespeare plays with Ran, which was an adaptation of King Lear, and Throne of Blood, which was an adaptation of Macbeth.
After that, my mind draws at a blank. I want to ask you all for Asian films you’ve seen that has taken Western stories and properties and successfully (or not so successfully) adapted it? Have you seen any Western films that did a good job adapting Asian stories/properties?