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Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam review: Mammootty's film is a tranquil ode to social acceptance in uncertain times

Mammootty’s Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is more tranquil and serene piece of work that is sedately paced to allow viewers to immerse themselves into the rural world of James/Sundaram

3.5/5rating
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 09.09 AM, Jan 19, 2023

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Story: On their way back from Velankanni, a bus carrying a group of Malayali theatre artistes stop at a village after one among them - James - asks to. He soon makes his way to the village and begins behaving as one of their own, who had gone missing sometime ago. This worries both the villagers as well as those who had accompanied him, as they are uncertain of how to best deal with the predicament.

Review: In a telling scene in Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, a bus driver, whom the film’s protagonist James accuses of being a freeloader, is the sane voice among his distressed relatives and apprehensive colleagues as he tells them that they are all humans and anyone’s circumstances can change at the drop of a dime. But soon after he has doled out his advice, he is countered by another question on whether he is aware of anyone who had to face this predicament, to which he has no answer. Director Lijo Jose Pellissery and scriptwriter S Hareesh keeps Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, which is essentially a tale between two siestas, lively through such profound thoughts punctuated by humour that comes very organically.

A still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam
A still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

The predicament referred is that of James, soon after waking up from a siesta on his bus journey from Velankanni to Kerala, asks the driver to stop in the middle of nowhere in Tamil Nadu and makes his way to a village, where he begins to behave like Sundaram, who had gone missing sometime ago. From his gait, manner of speaking to the familiarity of Sundaram’s routines, James’ personality changes. So much that it makes the villagers, whom he considers as his own, as well as those who accompanied him, worried about what is transpiring. In fact, the two parties – separated only by language and financial status – put aside their suspicions amid the confusion that prevails to unite and find a solution that is best for James/Sundaram as well as their families.

A still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam
A still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is a far cry from Lijo’s recent pandemonium-filled movies such as Jallikattu as from its start, it’s a more tranquil and serene piece of work that is sedately paced to allow viewers to immerse themselves into the rural world of James and Sundaram. And this is deliberate as the only way the movie works is if the audience believes what’s happening to James is normal, no matter how bizarre it is. Theni Eashwar’s frames aided by soundscape that Lijo has created through dialogues and songs of yesteryear Tamil films make this easier for the audience. But herein also lies another barrier – the language. For the audience, unfamiliar with Tamil, it does pose a challenge to totally enjoy the film in all its essence as the filmmaker has beautifully used Tamil dialogues from previous films and juxtaposed it with the emotions that unravel on screen.

The script does slack a bit in the second half, but only just. This could be because the humour, which comes from the reactions of others to James’ situation, that made the first half a breeze to watch is replaced with James/Sundaram’s emotions.

The movie is also an ode to alienation as well as social acceptance. In a scene that is highlighted by Mammootty’s remarkable performance, he is accused of not belonging and he makes his case, going to each person and reminding him why he is one of their own. And the scene that stands out is where he feels alienated even when Sundaram’s family finally accepts him. The poignant sequences work all the more because of the range of emotions Mammootty exhibits as Sundaram. That’s also why there’s a sudden rush of feeling when he wakes up from the second siesta.

Mammootty in a still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam
Mammootty in a still from Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

Verdict: Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is among Lijo’s best works, in terms of how he juxtaposes cinematic elements and derives emotions, all while keeping the humour in tact and pacing just right. And that’s no mean feat.

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