In an interview with TNM, debut director Tharun Moorthy talks about the process that went into the making of the film that is getting a lot of appreciation.

Woman in green sari and blue blouse, man in white shirt and mundu, sit on a bench by the stairs and look up, the shot is taken from upDhanya and Vinayakan in 'Operation Java'
Flix Interview Monday, February 22, 2021 - 19:46

This must be the umpteenth time that the middle-aged couple are visiting the cyber cell in Ernakulam. They look so resigned that you’re taken by surprise when the man has an outburst at the Deputy Superintendent’s office. The woman, shocked and hurt beyond repair, does not utter a word. The men talk it out, and you side with the enraged husband. The couple, who are from a lower middleclass background, have been complaining about a ‘viral’ porn video that used a morphed image of the wife.

One insensitive officer insinuates that it might indeed be the wife. This is what finally makes the man lose it, stand up and raise his voice. He doesn’t turn to look at his wife with the slightest hint of accusation or doubt. He knows her well, he exclaims, she’d left everything else in life to be with him, knowing he had a troubled past.

Unless you aren’t easily moved, you’ll have a lump in your throat watching actor Vinayakan in this scene in Operation Java, a Malayalam film that released 10 days ago. The event is based on a real life cyber crime, of a homemaker’s morphed porn video doing the rounds on social media until it is finally proved that it’s not her. The sari-clad woman (played by Dhanya) has sorrow and a certain resolution in her face but nothing compels her to talk.

“She’s not ashamed to face people, she does not hide her face when she goes out in public because she knows she’s innocent. But there is a mental agony she goes through and no dialogue can convey that. Society likes to point fingers at you, finds it easier to say you’re guilty. You see that one police officer who does it too. I let the men argue it out with each other and let the situation talk for itself,” says Tharun Moorthy, writer and director of the film.

Tharun Moorthy

His words sound so mature that it’s difficult to believe this is his first feature film. Like every newcomer making the first step into the world of cinema, Tharun had wanted his film to break clichés and tell an untold tale. “I also wanted the treatment to be different. Creating the screenplay was not difficult after getting help from many cyber cell and police officials, and hearing their stories, inputs and experience of cases. The difficult part was to connect these stories emotionally… I took a year to fix the first draft,” Tharun says.

The film moves on methodically, without tiring you, from one cyber crime to another, all based on real life incidents. It is told through two young men – B Tech graduates Vinayadasan and Antony – played by Lukman Lukku and Balu Varghese. Four years after graduating, the men are still unable to find tech jobs and end up doing part time ones as delivery boys to make ends meet. Their technical skills in digging deeper to find the truth impress the cyber police wing in Kochi, led by Prathapan (Irshad) and Joy (Binu Pappu).

Still from the film

“It really was youngsters like Antony and Vinayadasan who solved the Premam case. That’s what the movie begins with – the leak of the censor copy of the film in 2015. We got a lot of details from the film’s producer Anwar Rasheed and that took us to Ayudh Soft, an IT company that helped the police in the case. The story they told us is so detailed it could itself be made into a film. But I wasn’t sure how much it would work if we just told the story of one cyber crime. So we structured it to feature a few more,” says Tharun.

They had a lot of help from the police. “We learnt that the cyber police wing by itself does not have a lot of operations on the ground. They find out the details and pass it over to the local police. They usually operate in the night, between 12 midnight and 3 am, play mind games to trap the criminals,” Tharun says.

The film, even while tackling a subject as serious as cyber crime, touches on another real issue of unemployment and the number of youths stuck in temporary jobs with no guarantee. This is enacted wonderfully by Lukman and Balu.

Binu Pappu, Lukman, Balu

“The unemployment part comes from my own life and from those of my friends, B Tech graduates who could not land a well-paid job. I had film dreams even after Class 12, but my family and I too were uncertain of the prospects. So I studied B Tech, and when questions about a job began to trouble me, I did M Tech. I worked some small jobs for a while but even that didn’t stop the questions. All this while my heart was in the world of arts, cinema. I was trained in Kathakali for 16 years and have won prizes at youth festivals. Short films I directed or scripted were appreciated. At one point I realised that arts was my path. Luckily, my family – especially my father Madhu and my wife Revathy – was very supportive,” Tharun says.

One man who helped him make that decision is renowned scriptwriter John Paul, who watched one of Tharun’s short films and told him that cinema needs him and that if he did not make his move at the right time, he would lose his chance. Tharun decided not to wait, and John Paul’s prediction appears to have come true. He has been getting many congratulatory calls. Even amid the interview, veteran director Joshiy calls him to drop a good word about Operation Java.

Watch: Trailer of Operation Java

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