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Times of India
The film is about the relationship between a father and his three sons in pre-Independence era set in Munnar.
Not many Malayalam films in recent times have lavished so much visual flavour as Iyyobinte Pusthakam. What Sabu Mohan has accomplished as an art director is certain to win him accolades. It seems the scope and expanse he had to cover has inspired Mohan to invest his heart fully into his work bringing alive tribal villages, assembling vintage cars and setting rooms for an affluent family in the pre-Independence era.
Amal Neerad dips his canvas in luxuriant tones of red, green and pitch-black darkness, adeptly filling his frames with red narrow lanes, greenery-filled bushes and hedges below the blue sky. It is this richness that masks the incongruities in Iyyobinte Pusthakam - the dazzling colours and imposing presence of certain actors that obliterates the laxity that creeps into the tale. The film is about a man named Iyyob who takes over a massive amount of wealth from his foreign master unexpectedly. He brings up three sons. While the first two inherit their father's cold-blooded nature, the youngest, a meek child, runs away after being startled by a shocking sight.
With a narrative that straddles the Shakespearean tale of a tragic father mistreated by his own children and a ballad like romance where the couple faces danger of an immediate separation, Amal Neerad lapses in his concentration or rather lets it flit away with the inclusion of music clips and his boyish obsession for fight sequences where characters are let loose in a pine forest, in an endless trail of pursuit and annihilation.
The tale of Iyob and his three sons has it's fallacies, but the film is invested with lot of earnestness, eking out historical facets and moulding characters with verve. In fact the supporting characters often elevate themselves to a point where the lead actors - Fahad and Isha who play Aloshy and Martha - are reduced to their mere status as lovers. There is a woman who acts like a serpent - alluring and poisonous- carrying out betrayal with evil chuckles and mute submission to the vile frustrations of an impotent husband, before morphing into a sensuous impersonation for infidelity. Padmapriya handles her character without fuss, emanating a menacing lure. Lal's Iyyob is so much reminiscent of the Shakespearean mould for he is thrown down from domineering heights to isolation in a dark room with wild nightmares waking him up from a booze-induced stupor.
It's this solidity of characters that binds the film together with the mosaic of brotherly feuds, romance and machinations. The anomalies in this film appear more or less superimposed as a need for style so that a girl exposed to the rigours of world right from her childhood comes to own stockings that belong to a middle class English family. Her eyebrows shine, her face looks flawless without a trace of dirt or grime. During the British era, an Indian police officer dares to put the picture of Adolf Hitler in his office and spends his time reading about the dictator.
These sequences never fit into an otherwise well-conceived period romance. However Amal Neerad can proudly cajole this film since it takes more than guts to put together a film in such vast scope in Malayalam.