Iyobinte Pusthakam – Movie Review (Malayalam)

A “Job” Half Done!

Rajesh Ravindran

Iyobinte Pusthakam” derives its name from a story in the Old Testament called “Book of Job” (warning: Wikipedia trivia ahead), which is apparently about a man whose faith God and Satan decided to test by putting him through many sufferings. It looks like Amal Neerad chose this name for his movie, for he was planning to play God (or, rather Satan) to test the audiences’ endurance for suffering. But sorry Sir, our faith ain’t that strong!

The posters and publicity material of “Iyobinte Pusthakam” set a tone for a stylized period drama and knowing Amal Neerad, one doesn’t expect anything more than a good looking film with some decent action (with no substance or substance borrowed/stolen from Hollywood). Unfortunately, here one wishes the script was copied from somewhere, for there is absolutely none otherwise and no action either.

The movie starts off with an ad film on Vagamon tourism, followed by some music videos, ads of retro cars, bikes and clothing (it even has a documentary-like montage of World War II) and ends with a demonstration of vintage weapons. Well, it’s not THAT bad. The cinematography, for one is breath-taking, the locations are captured beautifully and some shots of graphic violence, though an overkill, are well executed. The costumes, of course way too stylized (for which peasant woman in 40’s Kerala, other than Isha Sharwani, would wear an English skirt, I wonder!) lend a charm of the period and English romances. I particularly loved the references to the World Wars, the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny (something I wasn’t aware of), the missionary influence and the nascent communism (which, though, looked force fitted for no reason).

But once you get over the visual spectacle after the first few minutes, there is hardly anything to keep one interested in the goings on. The story, which is almost non-existent, meanders from here to there, without a direction. There was a point when I thought this was going to turn out to be an adaptation of “Godfather” (the Hollywood one), but no, that would make it too good for the audience, won’t it! It just eventually turns into a mess of unconnected events.

There is a nice collection of characters though, all portrayed by competent actors, with some good one liners sprinkled among them. Unfortunately, all of them are left without any strong motive for their actions and their nature. Among the actors, Lal, who portrays the transition from slavery to power to weakness gets the meat of the acting portions. The only other actors who stood out for me were Jayasurya (cos I like him :P), Chemban Vinod and Padmapriya, whose character has been done great injustice by the double meaning references and objectification. Fahad has nothing much to do except one or two decent action moves. Isha Sharwani has the job of looking good, which she is competent at. The only other noticeable performance was from the girl who plays Fahad’s tribal friend’s wife (don’t know her name). She has really expressive eyes and stood out in the 2-3 scenes she was in.

The music and especially the background score is pitch perfect. But the songs, especially a totally unwanted item number by Amala Paul (who BTW, can’t dance to save her life), are completely misplaced and just extend the suffering when one is waiting for the movie to somehow end. And that brings me to the one thing that the editor majorly screwed up on – 30 minutes shorter, and I might have disliked it a bit less.

At the end of the day “Iyobinte Pusthakam” is a job half done. Great visuals, great costumes, nice background score, good looking actors, some interesting characters, a few good one liners but absolutely zilch in the form of a script or semblance of a plot. I wish Amal Neerad would get back to pure action in slow motion. At least then, the slow pace made sense.

Edit: It was after a good night’s sleep that I realized, that this movie is actually an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. With the knowledge, it does feel a little more respectable.

(The reviewer, who also did a review of Indian Rupee on Music Aloud a while back, is a NITC-IIMB grad, currently residing in Bangalore. Assuming he finds movies that pique his interest at frequent intervals, you shall see more of his reviews here in the near future. You can find him online, here and here.