"This is a starkly sad and beautiful film by the Indian filmmaker Santosh Sivan, in the Tamil language with English subtitles. It was shot in 17 days on locations in Kerala and Madras with a cast made up entirely of nonprofessional actors on a small budget. The theme, however, is large.The lead character, Malli, exquisitely played by Ayesha Dharkar, is a 19-year old woman who lives in a terrorist camp, fighting for her unnamed country. Her eyes are large and her expressions innocent and strong and even though we see her actively participating in an execution, she wins the audience's heart immediately. She is honored by being chosen to become a suicide bomber. A very important person will come to the town, she will put a garland around his neck, and blow him and herself up by pushing a button which will ignite the bombs strapped to her body. But will she really do it?When she leaves the guerilla camp she is led through minefields by a young boy named Lotus. We glimpse the horror of the war through his eyes and his boyish bravery. Then she is taken on a boat to spend a few days with a elderly farmer named Vesu who doesn't suspect her mission. As she dresses for the final event, she is torn with conflict. By subtle complexities in her acting, the audience is drawn in to Malli's dilemma. However, the director sometimes gets a little too arty, with too many close-ups with raindrops on her face. And, in order to show every single emotion, the action of the story moves too slow for my taste.However, the beauty of the film lies not as much in the actual story, but in the director's ability to put a human face on terrorism. The mood is somber, the cinematography beautiful and the emotions of the individuals caught up in the drama are captured well. I recommend this video for serious film buffs only who are willing to incorporate sadness and starkness into their movie-going experience. Others will find it too harsh."
Intelligent and Moving
Linda Linguvic | 08/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Terrorist is an unconventional film, providing a beautiful, quiet, almost meditative look into the mind and heart of a woman rebel about to commit a suicide terrorist act. Almost every week now we can read about similar bombings in the Middle East or elsewhere. Most of us probably read the headlines and recoil in disgust at the violence, while some individuals may perceive the events as courageous acts of freedom fighters. The genius of this movie is that it does not promote either but instead focuses on the interior life of a very real human being.The film is photographed beautifully primarily in lush areas of India. The actors are all unknown and are excellent in their innocent portrayals. The film was supposedly made for the ridiculous amount of $30,000 and thus there are no special effects or grand action sequences -- which I found refreshing. Instead the camera explores the faces and feelings of the characters which are sometimes intense, always interesting.I found the main character fascinating. She is in some ways an inexperienced girl, but in others a courageous adult who has seen much in her life. She is shown to be both a trained rebel/killer and a sensitive woman. I became more and more anxious for her as she approached the day of the assassination and her death.In response to some of the criticisms of the movie: I liked that details surrounding the rebellion were not given as this was not a movie about a particular rebel movement but about the conflict inside a generic rebel who is devoted to her cause but is also growing in appreciation of life. I did not find the main character self-absorbed, but instead growing in awareness of herself and of the world in response to the unique situation she finds herself. Also there are no signs of trouble during the 2nd half of the movie because she has traveled two days away from the source of the uprising to the mainland where the assasination is to take place. It would have interesting to not show the ending of the movie, but leave it up to the viewer to decide if she chose to carry out the terrorist act or not, but I loved the ending that was shown; suspenseful, inspiring but not contrived.In summary, this was a visually wonderful and emotionally absorbing film that I believe will gradually gain much acclaim."
Choose Your Life: Compelling Drama from India about a Girl
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 08/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For all its title, this Indian film is not in any way political; though it is clearly inspired by the assacination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, by a girl who strapped a bomb around her body, the location of "The Terrorist" remains vague. But that makes a point because the film concentrates an orphaned girl Malli's pyschological change from a soldier fighting in the jungle for cause, into something she never thought of before, something with humanity. The film neither defends nor accuses the terrorism (whatever you may define it) and those who are involved in it. The director wisely avoids including any reference to political climate, and sets his forcus upon the girl who believes her cause, and for that purpose, could be ruthless to kill a man. She is chosen for the 'human bomb' soldier to assacinate one statesman, and when she knows that, she quite happily starts the preparatory course for the mission, saying the words of gratitude before the commander.And Malli is sent to an old farmer's house under false identity, in order to wait for the order, but there she encounters the events that influence her way of thinking. For the reason that is gradually revealed in flashback sequences, her strong will starts to falter. In fact, Malli is given a chance to choose her life, which is to be suggested in the end.Shot all with natural lighting, and except the leading actress Ayesha Dharkar, with all non-professional actors, the film shows the impressive contrast of darkness and light. Santosh Sivan, acclaimed photographer of India, gives his second feature as a director, and his skill for capturing the natural light is brilliantly shown here, with finely realized images of green, wet jungle. Though the film does not tell us anything particularly new about terrorism and its participants, its cinematography surely sneaks into the (possibly imaginary to some extent, but realistic) world of them.But, the greatest treasure of the film is the lead Ayasha Dharkar, whose natural beauty never leaves the memory of ours the instant she looks deep into the camera. Her wide eyes are as expressive as anything I have seen on the screen recently, and if for her acting only, the film deserves your time and money. Actually, you might have seen her already in a certain Hollywood blockbuster film called "Episode II" (no kidding), but George Lucas seems to have missed it. A real shame. (About where she was, read on till the end.)John Malkovich, when he was chairman at Cairo Film Festival, loved the film so much that he decided to lend his name to introduce the film worldwide. So, Japanese poster of this film has a line "John Malkovich Presents" and his enthusiastic feelings are only natural. "The Terrorist" may put off many prospective viewers because of its topic and title, but the film deals with more personal matter, about which we should think for once. And again I say, the lead is so compelling that you never turn your eyes from her. The director Santosh Sivan later joined respected Indian director Mani Rathnam's film "Dil Se" (1998) as a photographer. The film, which became a top 10 hit in UK, uses the same topic in a very different way. If you have a chance to see it, don't miss it.Oh, and about her role in "Episode II": yes, Ayasha Dharka played Queen Jamillir, present Queen of Naboo where Natalie Portman's Amidara meets her."
Love Conquers All?
Artist & Author | Near Mt. Baker, WA | 08/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a very subtle, but important message in this movie. This girl, Malli, had been brought up in a terrorist atmosphere since her parents and, later, her older brother were killed in the Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka. That is literally all she knew.
I once met a trained Iranian terrorist who was sent to India to blow up an airliner. However, there was a delay in their plans, and he fell into extended contact with a Christian woman. She was so loving and so kind to him, completely opposite of what he'd been taught in Islamic Iran, that he began to doubt his mission to kill innocent people. Eventually, he converted to Christianity and moved to the United States. This movie is the same story, except that the kind person was Hindu.
Malli simply could not reconcile what she saw and felt while staying with this loving man, one who tenderly cared for seven years for his comatose wife, with what she'd been taught in her terrorist training camps. Maybe it is true that love conquers all! At least, especially in the light of Islamic terrorism to prevalent today, this movie raises such issues. Does love always work? Or, can terrorists use one's loving gestures against them? Traditional values, especially religious familles, would find this topic to be a lively and, hopefully, fruitful discussion."
dustin | Ft. Collins, CO | 06/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved the movie The Terrorist. It is a non-Bollywood Indian film that doesnt altogether escape the somewhat cheesy nature of some of these movies, but it remains extremely emotional and dark throughout. The main character struggles between her duty to her "country", the rebels she fights with, and sacrificing her life to take the lives of others (namely the leader of the Government, this sort of assassination has really taken place in India in the fairly recent past). She seems to really begin to understand the beautiful, fragile nature of life when she meets a little boy who is to be her guide. The movie is not too violent and I would recommend it to a mature PG-13 audience."