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Thought-provoking narrative

R. SAMPATH

Shrikar Madiraju looks into the psyche of terrorist mind with his poignant `The Down Rising'.



COMPLICATED PLOT The author's treatment of the most difficult-to-handle subject is praiseworthy.

A brilliant attempt at piercing into the psyche of a terrorist has been made by Shrikar Madiraju, a Vizagite settled in the US who is an IBM employee with a passion for stage and cinema, in his 90-minute film, The Down Rising.

The film, shot entirely in Washington DC, with a cast comprising over 20 stage artistes from the tri-state area, centres around a highly networked international terrorist organisation's cell based in the U.S. capital, with its members determined to achieve their mission. In the process, the viewers get an insight into the conflicting emotions of militants and their accomplices.

The plot gets complicated when one of the militants, posing as a student, and a young widow, whose husband was slain by a Kashmir militant group, happen to reside under one roof in Washington. The narration ends on a positive note that even a hard-core terrorist could have a soft corner .

The Down Rising was premiered at the Avalon Theatre in Washington and acclaimed by critics. Director Shrikar chose to have it screened recently before a select audience in Visakhapatnam and in the presence of ace Telugu director K. Viswanath, who was all praise for the treatment of the most difficult-to-handle subject, "which I wouldn't have dared to touch", as the latter observed.

To each his own

What impelled Shrikar to handle such a theme? "It all originated from an article I had read about Mohammed Atta and his accomplice Alomari, the suicide pilots of the aircraft that crashed against the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2002."

"I was brooding over what Atta and Alomari must have been going through in their minds. Were they thinking about the task on hand or their fate thereafter? I created some fictional characters who are ordinary people like us but have their own hidden agenda."

"Questions like `what is their cause?', `what drives them to their cause?', `can they be stopped?', and so on bombarded me. I tried to figure out their mindset: the result was The Down Rising," he observes.

About the title, he says, "generally we talk of uprising if any group revolts against the establishment. Here, the highlight is about the inner churning taking place in individual terrorists. Hence the antonym."

Going about the project

How did he go about the project? "After writing the script, I discussed the proposal with some theatre artistes known to me and they readily agreed to work with me for practically nothing. Musicians of the District of Columbia helped me by composing and performing an original soundtrack. Susmita Chinnamathur and Srikanth Chinnamathur came forward to produce the film, which was edited by Frank Washinton and Lorenzo Olson. Digital Underground extended the production facilities."

"We spent a measly $7000 on the entire scheme, which we recovered in the premiere show itself," he says.

Any takers to distribute the film? "I don't intend commercial screening of this full-length feature film. My idea is that the message of positivism should get across various groups that are sharply divided on fundamental issues. It will be screened in various film festivals," he says.

As regards his next theme "I am currently working on a two-hour feature filmThe Other Side of Musi set in 1560 Hyderabad, and it will be produced in English, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi in Hyderabad and Rajasthan locales"

Shrikar had produced a number of shorts and stage plays. His 30-minute short film, Under Ground, dealing with the mysterious occurrence of a string of deaths of immigrants who had flooded Washington DC , was officially selected for the New York Independent Film Festival in April 2004, and received rave reviews.

A member of the South Asian Theatre Guild Experiment (STAGE), Shrikar is fond of travelling and interested in colonial Indian history.

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