Set in times way beyond pre-independence era when Britishers set foot in Kerala, the film 'Iyobinte Pusthakam' directed by Amal Neerad arrests the senses with its visual charm alone if at all it has any effect. The extreme close-ups, unimaginable angles and magnificent shots produce graceful canvases to no end.
The story begins with a British planter named Harrison (Sal Yusuf) setting foot in Munnar to start a tea estate. The saga flows as a narrative of contents of a book beset in mid seventies in the same title. It tells the story of Iyob (Lal) and his rise from a menial labourer in the tea estate to the right hand man of Harrison and then to the master of Munnar Hills.
The tale gets ripe when Iyob’s three sons grow up to become – Dmitri (Chemban Vinod), a sodden campfire, Ivan (Jinu Joseph) who spits venom at any one who comes in his way Aloshi (Fahadh Faasil) man with a golden heart and exceptional physical agility.
The long meandering narration takes us through the incidents of Kazhali (Lena) a nomad belonging the Thodan clan coming to Harrison’s estate and later becoming his mistress. However, with Harisson’s departure from the land Iyob becomes the master of the estate and sends out Kazhali who is pregnant from Harrison with Martha (Isha Sharvani). Aloshi flees the place in his child hood and eventually joins the navy.
The momentum picks up when the lengthy commentary ebbs and the real game begins. The action scenes are perfectly carried out by Fahadh Faasil. Amal Neerad has made no mistake in choreographing the alacrity of sigh-jerking scenes through out the film and leaving some jaw-dropping surprises. In fact all the ingredients required for an eventful period drama have been roped in including the World War II clips.
Sibling rivalry in the childhood finally snowballs into blood thirsty enmity in adulthood and leaves a trail of gory events. Add to that a bit of feud infused by external forces and it becomes a run of the mill affair loaded with, deceits, vengeance, gunshots and bloodshed. Predictability is yet another villain which mars the thrill of the film.
The grandiloquence of sequences with the aid of music and camera manoeuvres is played up excessively at the cost of storyline that its vitality of is seeped through the punctures created by heavy clamour of violence and chaos. Taken individually each scene may offer concrete paint-like experience. Unfortunately, they never get seamlessly connected to give a wholesome experience replete with life. Occasional visits by collateral developments outside the Munnar woods remind you the ‘period’ element of the film.
Jayasurya appears as a Tamil businessman Angoor Rawther while Padmapriya plays Rahel in the movie. Vinayakan plays a major role and Reenu Mathews appears as Annamma. T. G. Ravi is a Communist on the run who narrates his book 'Iyobinte Pusthakam' and Sreejith Ravi represents his younger days. Shebin Benson, Saritha Kuku, Nebish Benson also perform well in the film.
Drawing heavily from the classic, 'Brother’s Karamazov' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the film follows every criteria that fits the bill of its genre. Even the main characters bear the same names. Only that Iyob should have been Pavlovich and Alyosha in the novel has been tweaked to Aloshi.
'Iyobinte Pusthakam' thrives on the cold blooded astonishment sending shudders through the spine occasionally. You may sit glued to the seat right through to the end. There is movement but it doesn’t move you. There is chill but doesn’t awe you. No matter how much it tries to raise the adrenaline and make clanks in your belly, it hardly leaves anything to remember back home other than some sexist jibes thrown up intermittently. However, the visuals are a treat by themselves. Munnar’s bounty is fully absorbed by Amal Neerad’s gleeful camera.