Fyodor Dostoyevsky's final novel The Brothers Karamazov spins a complex tale of family, faith and morality against the backdrop of a modernizing Russia. Written in 1880, it focuses on Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his sons Dimitri, Ivan, and Alexei as he tries to determine who will be the heir of his fortune.
Several attempts have been made to bring this 800+ page novel to the silver screen - most notably the 1958 MGM big budget version starring Lee J. Cobb, Yul Brynner, Richard Basehart and William Shatner in his film debut. In 2009, the 12-episode Bratya Karamazovy was produced for Russian television and is deemed to be the most faithful film adaptation of the novel to date.
But the 2014 Malayalam film adaptation Iyobinte Pusthakam ("Book of Job") breathes new life into the drama by telling the story of Iyob (Lal) and his sons Dimithri (Chemban Vinod Jose), Ivan (Jinu Joseph), and Aloshy (Fahadh Faasil) against the backdrop of a transitioning India in the mid 1900s. The story is set in Munnar, Western Ghats against the backdrop of World War II, the end of the British Raj in India, and the rise of communism in the state of Kerala.
Worthy of its source material, this adaptation is presented on an epic scale with sweeping landscapes, innovative music, and stunning cinematography. The story is filled with both beautiful and brutal moments.
Here are five moments with Aloshy that made us fall in love with Iyobinte Pusthakam.
1. Aloshy Breakfasts with Dimithri and Ivan
After the being discharged from the British Royal Indian Navy, Aloshy returns home for the first time in many years. The morning after he returns, he sits down at the breakfast table with his brothers who begin to taunt him just as they did when he was a child. His self-control in the moment is offset by the intensity in his eyes as he looks at his brothers. In an interview in The Hindu, Fahadh Faasil explains:
Initially, we were planning to introduce Aloshy during a war sequence. But Amal [Neerad] thought it would be even more challenging to make Aloshy look like he is returning from a war. The hardships and horrors that he endured had to be conveyed in the way he behaves and talks. We had come up with a back story for Aloshy, who had fled home after he felt totally alienated there. He had to go through real struggles even before he signed up for the British Royal Indian Navy. And because of that he becomes very restrained in his approach to life and relationships. He returns to Kerala after he is thrown out of the navy because of his involvement in the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny. After his return, for example, he could have easily reacted to the injustice meted out to him by his brothers but he shows remarkable restraint.
2. Aloshy Disarms Ivan
When Ivan tries to prevent him from rescuing Chemban's wife from certain abuse, Aloshy grabs Ivan's rifle and in an instant has unloaded and dismantled the weapon. In that one quick moment, you realize that the quiet and reserved Aloshy has some important skills - no doubt learned through his military training and war experience - that makes him a force to be reckoned with.
3. Aloshy and Martha and the Elephant
While out walking, Aloshy and Martha find themselves in the path of a rampaging wild elephant. They climb a tree to safety, but the elephant threatens to dislodge them by pushing over the tree. Iyob and his men arrive and neutralize the elephant - a sad affair. This life-and-death scene is memorable for both its beauty and as a reminder of the fragility of life.
4. Aloshy Rushes his Assailant
When Aloshy and Martha are shot at, Aloshy locates their gunned assailant across the open field. He distances himself from Martha then makes a beeline toward the gunman as he is reloading his rifle. There are several tense seconds as the camera cuts between Aloshy and the rifleman. When the rifle is loaded and raised to fire, Aloshy has reached his target. Suddenly the rifle is in Aloshy's hands and he doesn't hesitate to respond to the threat in kind.
5. Aloshy Runs to Save Martha
Now in full action hero mode and with the blessing of his father, Aloshy leaves the wounded Iyob to save Martha who is being pursued by Ivan, Angoor Rowther (Jayasurya), and their men. After having disarmed several assailants, returned from the brink of death, and reunited with a repentant father, this scene is both poignant and powerful. You can't help think that Iyob empowers Aloshy to break with the past to embrace his future. As he says farewell to his father, you know that Aloshy has the ability to save Martha, yet this story has had so many twists and turns in it that you are not really sure he can reach her in time.
Iyobinte Pusthakam won an Asianet Award for Best Film. The following playlist features the trailer and musical themes for key characters from the film.
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