The Terrorist

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama, Thriller

Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan's taut psychological thriller follows a young female terrorist as she embarks on a suicide mission. Nineteen-year-old Malli (Ayesha Dharkar) is a dark-haired, doe-eyed killer, a terrorist trained from an early age to kill without compunction and, if necessary, die for her homeland. (Although the revolutionary group is...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan's taut psychological thriller follows a young female terrorist as she embarks on a suicide mission. Nineteen-year-old Malli (Ayesha Dharkar) is a dark-haired, doe-eyed killer, a terrorist trained from an early age to kill

without compunction and, if necessary, die for her homeland. (Although the revolutionary group is never mentioned by name, the scenario strongly suggests Sri Lanka's fearsome Tamil Tigers.) Living among her fellow militants in their jungle encampment, Malli is handpicked to execute an unnamed V.I.P. whose politics run counter to the movement's unstated goals. The means are simple and effective: Malli is to meet her victim

at a public reception in the city and detonate the bomb strapped to her waist, killing the V.I.P. and herself. Malli emerges from the thick jungle into the real world of the city, where she waits for her big moment at the home of a kindly, unsuspecting old man (Parmeshwaran). And there Malli, for

the first time in her life, begins to have doubts about dying for a cause — particularly after learning something about herself that suddenly makes life worth living. Beautifully shot on a next-to-nothing budget, Sivan uses the circumstances surrounding the 1991 assassination of former Indian

prime minister Rajiv Gandhi — who was killed by a suicide bomber linked to a Tamil separatist group — for the film's nail-biting climax. But it otherwise deliberately avoids direct political references; The group Malli fights for is never named (neither, for that matter, is the land for

which she's willing to die), and the face of her fearless leader, like that of her intended target, is never actually seen. Sivan is much more interested in the impulse that would drive someone — anyone — to such extreme acts of violence and self-destruction, and what it would

take to snap a young woman, brainwashed from an early age, into a sense of individual self-worth and the value of human life.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan's taut psychological thriller follows a young female terrorist as she embarks on a suicide mission. Nineteen-year-old Malli (Ayesha Dharkar) is a dark-haired, doe-eyed killer, a terrorist trained from an early age to ki… (more)

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