Set in the pre-independent India, Aloshi returns from the war to his estranged family and childhood love, only to find his elder brothers taking the side of a ruthless business man to overthrow their father.
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Amal Neerad is known for his gleaming shots propelled by slow-motion and dramatic exaggeration. As he focuses more on these things to bring about a punching (and sometimes numbing) effect on his audience, he often forgets about the story. Well, in Iyobinte Pusthakam, he slightly manages to differ.
The period is World War II - India. Iyob (or Eyob) (Lal) is what the writers call a converted foreigner. After serving an Englishman for the larger part of his life, he takes over his large empire after his death. The story is about his three children: two mischievous, cruel, and sturdy like himself and the third Aloshy (Fahadh Faasil), diffident and lonesome. After their mother's death, the two sons along with their tyrannical father start ruling their areas while Aloshy runs away far from the maddening environment. He returns later to witness what we have never seen before: an autocratic system in India during the World War.
It is basically a revenge story which takes turns and ends up as a hackneyed plot that most of us have either watched or read before. So, while Neerad has managed to sketch a drama this time, he again loses focus on the niceties. But, then you will notice the small mistakes like typos in English subtitles and goof-ups in the frames. I am ready to forgo these mistakes, all thanks to the screenplay and the thunderous cast performances.
Fahadh is great, as always. From his costumes to his make-up to his style - I was mesmerized. But Jayasurya steals the limelight here, playing a wily tree-cutter who plays with Iyob and his sons' lives. His vindictiveness quotient was maybe at a 100%. Lal, Lena, Padmapriya, and all others were very good - they portray their respective characters gloriously. The first half will excite you a lot, as the screenplay lays the foundation to an ensuing family drama with the War as backdrop. But, the second half moves so quickly, you will stop and stare at the characters' actions. And then all feels like cliché.
Character build is strong, with everyone having distinguishing nuances and stances. But, at the end, even they fall prey to the director's nods. The story spirals into predictability.
Songs were forced, and the film does kiss the genre of romance once in a while, as Isha Sharvani fumbles with talented Fahadh. Climax will make you content, because it is shot and stylized in such a scintillating manner that you will yearn for more. Humour is average.
Moreover, let me take the time to appreciate the language used in the film. You will hear exotic and peculiar pre-Independence words which fancied the characters who spoke them. Where else do you hear that our own rice cake "Puttu" was also known as "Thamban Thoori" at that time?
BOTTOM LINE: The best thing about Neerad's latest venture, produced by Fahadh himself is the tantalizing visuals of India during World War II. It gives insight into how bad and good the lives of Indians were even though the British rule was quickly fading at the start of 1940s. For the story that has been carved or should I say, founded upon it, the film is average. Neerad's fans will love it, and it could be termed the most divisive Malayalam film of the year.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
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