Iyobinte pustakam is 2014 film set in British India and post-Independence. The movie is regarded as one of the best new generation films and a cinematographic masterpiece. While I agree with the latter, the movie is an overrated and exaggerated depiction based on a cliched theme, taken in Quentin Tarantino style.
Lal plays Iyob (Malayalam name for Job), a man who was trusted by the British, who eventually became the “Naadan sahippu”. He has three sons, Ivan (Jinu Joseph), Dimitri (Chemban Vinod Jose)and Aloshy (Fahad Faasil). Unlike his elder brothers, Aloshy is inclined more to his mother Annamma’s (Reenu Mathews) graciousness and integrity. The circumstances in the family become intense after the death of Annamma. He leaves home after witnessing his brother’s malevolent nature which led to the murder of a young girl who was raised by Annamma as her own. Aloshy goes on to become an army officer and he comes back to see the cruelty inflicted by his family among common people. He takes a stand eventually with Chemban (Vinayakan).
Amal Neerad is a cinematographer turned director, known for using too many slow-mo shots for the sake of artistic depiction of events. The movie is a cinematographic masterpiece notably the song “Raave”. The continuous moving shots, suggestion, and angles gave it the texture of a thriller and editing created the visual wonder. Cinematography gave the movie a specific structure that was hardly noticed in Malayalam cinema. The story is loosely based on Job 32:9 from the bible which says “The aged aren’t always wise, nor do the elderly always understand justice”. Iyob is shown as a selfish leader who raised his sons with violence, showering them with bad light and visuals of pain inflicted on common people. But, the structurally the movie is flawed. First of all the film is too violent to be tolerated, in a way, an ode to Tarantino style. The fact that siblings kill each other is too hard to be tolerated even if it was shown as the result of Kazhali’s (Lena) curse inflicted on the family by her, after she was beaten out of the house while she was pregnant. Cruelty and benevolent misogyny of people in that era are well understood from this movie as women were beaten mercilessly and hardly had their voice. For example Rahel (Padmapriya) who is choked, beaten sometimes raped for even doing so much as stare at her husband. There is dragging and at times, while witnessing the violence, I was waiting for the movie to be over and done with. Also, were the women treated that cruelly under the British rule? British people were known respecting women even during the days of cruel colonisation. The narration by T.G Ravi was too artificial and the dialogues were only substandard. This raises the question, was the narration needed in the first place? The visuals were more than enough to show what was being depicted. Then the characters; Aloshy is a well-built character but his brothers are too nerve-rackingly bad to be believed. The character shift of Iyob is well done but it is something that I predicted way before; predictability is one of the major disadvantages of this film. We will anticipate the travesty common people faces, the rise of the communist party and Iyob playing the role of “Moses” during the circumstances created by his father and siblings. Chemban is also an irreproachable character and Martha… is just there. I wish there was more to her than just staring at people with a scowl and running around. Rahel, played by Padmapriya, seemed layered and I expected a good turn from her. But the twist related to character seemed to be the worst. She is shown as a greedy woman who uses her body to lure men’s attention to her.
Lal was monotonous but by the end, we get to see his standard performance. Fahad Faasil is stereotyped and performed his typical style with expressionless face which is seemingly irrevocable no matter what genre he is in. The women are just fixed in this movie for the feminine touch and for the depiction of early 20th century misogyny. Chemban Vinod Jose plays yet another typecast role as a cruel pervert who beats and rapes his wife, to lusting after other women. Before this, I saw him do the same in Kali and Ordinary. What’s with Malayalam cinema and depiction of perverts? The movie is named “Iyobinte pustakam”, well, I think it would have been more believable if it was called “Aloshyude pustakam”. Although the movie initially focussed on Iyob’s journey, then the perspective completely shifts to Aloshy and his life.
Iyobinte Pustakam is an overrated action drama. However, some people might find it intriguing based on their preference. As per the expectations, the movie couldn’t stand at par. It could have been better, a lot better. But the cinematography is spectacular and the film can be used as case study for modern Malayalam cinema.
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