Monday, September 08, 2014

What Lies Beneath

Rajeev Ravi’s second film, 'Njan Steve Lopez’ (I am Steve Lopez), takes a hard look at the state of society today

Photos: Rajeev Ravi; young stars Farhaan Faasil and Ahaana Krishna

By Shevlin Sebastian

Up on a hill near Thiruvananthapuram, long past midnight, a group of men are having dinner at a roadside shack. The lighting is dim, and there is silence all around. One of the characters, Steve Lopez, who has been kidnapped by a gang, gets permission to go outside, to wash his hands, at an open tap. As he does so, suddenly, there is a bomb blast. Frantic young men, brandishing knives, rush into the shop. Soon, there is a full-fledged fight between rival gang members. Steve looks on in shock, as Hari, one of the gang leaders, is stabbed in the back.

The scenes have been shot so convincingly that the audience is on the edge of their seats. This is Bollywood cinematographer, Rajeev Ravi's second film in Malayalam.

'Njan Steve Lopez' (I am Steve Lopez) is a gritty, unsparing look at the nexus between the police and the criminals, as well as the corruption that has permeated Indian society.

Today, what we see on the surface of life is not the truth,” says Rajeev. “Underneath, more often than not, there is a link between the good and bad of society. This partnership has been taken for granted by the people.”

The storyline is simple. Steve Lopez is a college student, who has a girlfriend, and spends time with friends, chatting on his mobile, smoking and drinking, and having a good time. But, one day, inadvertently, he witnesses the hacking of a gang member on a busy street in Thiruvananthapuram. 

Steve rushes the critically wounded man to hospital, much to the consternation of his father, who is a police officer. Slowly, as events unfold, Steve realises that his father, along with other officers, are not interested in catching the culprits.

This is the premise of the film: what happens when the children of those who are corrupt begin to question their behavior?” says Rajeev. “I was curious to see how they will react. A father is keen to impart moral values to the child, yet at the same time, to survive in his career, he is unable to maintain the same principles. I wanted to tell the people in power that they are not on the right path, and nor is our society.”

The film stars newcomers Farhaan Faasil, (the son of veteran Mollywood director Fazil), and Ahaana Krishna (the daughter of Mollywood actor, Krishna Kumar). “I was looking for fresh faces,” says Rajeev. “They had to look like normal young people. I was lucky that both were good actors.”

Both have, indeed, acted well. Ahaana says it was all due to Rajeev's direction. “He gave us a lot of freedom,” she says. “Rajeev was open to improvisations. Sometimes, we made up dialogues on the spot. He also gave simple explanations for each scene. So, it was easy to follow them.” 

The film has received critical acclaim, but has not had as much of an impact at the box office, as Rajeev had hoped. But he is not disappointed. “I felt that somebody should try and make a film like this,” he says. “This is my 18th year in the profession. So I felt that this was the right time. If not now, then when? No point in being safe all the time. I wanted to take the risk.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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