Up Close and Personal
Maybe the world is past wondering what goes on in the minds of suicide bombers. But what about a suicide bomber who is deeply conflicted about her mission and could go either way? In the aftermath of the London attacks, I recommend a quiet but powerful little film called "The Terrorist."
Written and directed by Santosh Sivan, this 1999 film relates the story of Malli (Ayesha Dharker), a young Indian woman who, wishing to revenge the death of her brother, volunteers to assassinate a political figure by serving as an official greeter who while offering him flowers will detonate a bomb hidden under her clothing.
The camera follows Malli through every step of preparing, then waiting, for the explosion that will rip apart her body and that of her victim. I put it that way because Malli's body, in all its vitality, youth, and sensuous delight, is very much the star of this film.
Malli doesn't talk much; she listens. She listens to her handlers: ideologues who, while not religious (the film is based on the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi), clearly see the life of ordinary people as vastly inferior to the death of glorious martyrs. But Malli also listens to birds, breezes, bubbling brooks, and her own heartbeat - not to mention the voices of other human beings who do not share the fanaticism du jour. And in the end...