Terrorist, The : Interview With Santosh Sivan

What was the immediate starting point for the film?

When we talk about a suicide bomber, what immediately comes to mind is the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. I was wondering what kind of person would actually be able to strap a belt of explosives to herself.

I used to wonder, how would someone do something like this? And what possibly could make her not do it?

So I thought I could make a film about this. At the same time I realised that when one makes such a film you often end up glorifying violence. Most of the films that deal with violence end up showing a great deal of it and then say, at the end, "No, it's not right". So I was making a film on a very violent subject, but I wanted to have the audience go through a process so that they might say at the end, "Violence is bad", even though that's perhaps what they came for.

I tried to avoid a lot of this and tried to simply tell the story of girl fighting for a cause, being brainwashed about the future of the country and ending up screwing up her own future

What about the question of hero worship of 'The Leader'?

You have a group of young people, mostly teenagers. They are deprived of any kind of education, sex life, smoking, everything is considered harmful, and invariably most of them are dead by the time they’re 22. All of them are made to believe that being a martyr is the best thing to happen, and they’re given fantastic funerals. It is like the ultimate high for a person in that kind of environment.

The film is made on a very low budget, in fact, nothing at all. And it is all acted by purely non-professionals. I want to make films that are very real. I make my bread and butter shooting commercial musical films. When I make a film, I want to make it as real and as interesting as possible. So I have to make it without those entertainment elements like fights, songs and all that. I only get the freedom to make the sort of films I want on a small budget.

It looks beautiful.

I’m a professional cinematographer. It was filmed in 17 days, that’s all we took. It was done in Madras, and a little bit of Kerala.

I studied film. I’m very well known as a cinematographer. I made one film before for children. Now I’m making another film for children. I wanted to do this film, so I said, I’ll make a very serious film.

The farmer, the people she stays with, were excellent

All of these people are more or less real people. I tried to make sure that all my characters are very real because I know people like this. So I'm able to detail them accordingly. I try to make it as real as possible so that it has some honesty to it. Not to put things in just for a laugh. Like when the kid, in the middle of the jungle, offers her a Coke. He actually said, "Coca Cola". Taking it out becomes more real. The fun is there because in the midst of all this there is Coke there. Which is also true actually.

Author : David Walsh