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1 item from 2000

Film review: 'The Terrorist'

13 January 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Watching this debut feature, it's easy to discern that it was directed by an award-winning cinematographer. "The Terrorist" fairly bursts with gorgeous images: endless close-ups of its lead actress's beautiful face and expressive eyes; numerous shots of water cascading down windows and through forests; nature scenes that rival those in "The Thin Red Line" in their pictorial quality. This visual elegance is the most striking element of this debut feature by Indian director Santosh Sivan that opens Friday at the Screening Room in New York.

Being "presented" by John Malkovich, who decided to champion the film after serving on the jury at the Cairo Film Festival -- where it won three awards, including best film -- "The Terrorist" is a slow-paced thriller inspired by the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi. The extraordinary Ayesha Dharkar plays the central role of Malli, a 19-year-old revolutionary being trained in Sri Lanka who is selected for her most important mission yet -- the suicide bombing of an unnamed political figure in India.

Ensconced on a farm while preparing for her ultimate sacrifice, Malli discovers that she is pregnant from a brief affair with a fellow freedom fighter. Although already a hardened killer, Malli begins to have second thoughts about her mission upon this revelation, and the bulk of the film concerns her spiritual struggle as she ponders her impending fate.

Filled with enough intense close-ups to inspire comparisons to Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc", the film is a highly arty, rarefied work that sacrifices thrills in favor of atmospherics. Director-cinematographer Sivan rather overdoes it at times, working on his visuals with an almost fetishistic concentration that too often calls attention to itself. But there is no denying his ability to sustain a mood, and his lead actress, who Malkovich rightly dubs "the heart and soul" of the film, delivers a performance of breathtaking intensity.

The Terrorist

Phaedra Cinema

Director-cinematographer:Santosh Sivan

Screenplay:Santosh Sivan, Ravi Deshpande, Vijay Deveshwar

Producers:Shree Prasad, Jit Joshi

Executive producers:Ravi Sunil Doshi, Vikram Singh, Mark Burton

Music:Sonu Sisupal, Rajamani

Editor:Sreekar Prasad



Malli:Ayesha Dharkar

Thyagu:Vishnu Vardhan

Perumal:Bhanu Prakash

Lover:K. Krishan

Leader:Sonu Sisupal

Running time -- 95 minutes

No MPAA rating


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