Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) ‘Netflix’ Movie: Ending Explained & Themes Analysed – A Metaphysical Exploration under the Guise of a Ghost Story

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam [2023] ‘Netflix’ Ending Explained & Themes Analysed: The literal translation of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s latest work, “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam,” is “A Mid-Day Nap.” However, the poetic translation that would reflect the true essence of the title is “Like An Afternoon Dream.” That is indeed the English title of the film during its Festival run. And there could not have been a more fitting title than this, for this Mammootty-starrer channels the lackadaisical yearning for the blissfully unknown that we often experience through afternoon dreams. Meticulously shot and yet reflecting the nonchalance of a wanderer, Lijo Jose Pellissery once again knocks it out of the park with his folkloric “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam.”

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

James (Mammootty), his wife, son, extended family, and friends travel to a Christian pilgrimage site in Tamil Nadu. On the return bus journey, near a random nameless village, James asks the bus driver to stop the bus abruptly. He gets down. He walks straight into the village, showing no sign of not knowing the place where he has come for the first time in his life. As if possessed, he bears indications of not only knowing that village but also reflecting the sense of belonging to the place.

James walks into a house as if it was not strange enough already. Again fully showing signs of belonging to the house. He starts to interact with the people inside them. At this juncture, we are as perplexed as the inhabitants of that house. Gradually that confusion is cleared. It would appear James has taken the identity of Sundaram—a local man who has been missing for quite some time. Most assumed him to be dead by now. The house James walked into is Sundaram’s house. The inhabitants are Sundaram’s parents, wife, and daughter.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) ‘Netflix’ Movie Review

Pellissery’s story (Screenplay by S. Hareesh) has the simplicity of a folktale. It reminds me of the Vijaydan Detha story, which Mani Kaul in “Duvidha adapted.” Amol Palekar, too, adapted that to make “Paheli” starring Rani Mukherji and Shah Rukh Khan. Pellissery perfectly captures the simplistic poignant nature of the story. The script’s absurdness is interspersed with certain regional observational humor.

When James’ tourist party begins their search in the village, the humor quotient starts to increase. Sundaram’s family and acquaintances could not fathom the logic behind what they were seeing. An obviously unfamiliar man starts to talk and act like Sundaram, regurgitating stories that were only known to Sundaram. James’ party, including his wife and son, is equally baffled by how James has forgotten about his hitherto existing life. Pellissery deftly explores the two-fold confusion to paint rural lives.

Superstar Mammootty is at his restrained best as both James and Sundaram. The veteran actor does not lean on too much theatrics to highlight the differences between the two characters he portrayed. The difference in portrayal is subtle. The seemingly uptight James loosens up to reveal a different man that is Sundaram. As if the Tamil-speaking Sundaram has always been inside James. This accentuates the metaphysical aspects of the film. Without singularly mentioning anyone, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the quality of work that was done by the fantastic support cast.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

Two other features of the film that need explicit mention are the cinematography by Theni Eswar and the work of the sound department. Eswar’s beautifully static frames tell a story in themselves. There are multiple occasions where Eswar’s frame highlights the dual life of James, with clever use of foreground and background—especially involving the two women, James’s wife, and Sundaram’s wife. The sound work in this film is also extraordinary. The constant barrage of dialogue snippets from classic Tamil movies perfectly blends with the characters’ lives and actions.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) ‘Netflix’ Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analysed:

The What If Conundrum.

After all the hassles and confusion, James wakes up the next day. Completely cured. Recognizing his wife and son and was completely unable to recognize the village or its residents. We see a specter-like image of Sundaram when James departs with his party. All of them board the bus and leave.

In the ‘reality’ part of the story, it is indeed a ghost story. One of the rare ghost stories that are not horror. It is implied that Sundaram’s ghost, who also has not come to terms with his afterlife, unintentionally ‘stumbled’ into James’ body. One of the common tropes in Indian folktales involving ghosts is that ghosts take refuge in trees—big trees like Banyan. We do see James wander below a beautiful big tree before surefootedly walking into Sundaram’s village. We see the same tree when the ‘cured’ James leave the place. It is possible that Sundaram’s ghost took shelter in the tree and leaped into James’ body. However, it is to be noted James was already far from his bus when he reached the tree.

On James’ part, we could assume that he probably asked the bus driver to stop because he needed to go to the loo. The exact moment of James’ metamorphosis is not clear. It is also possible that the moment he woke up from his nap and asked the bus to stop, he was already Sundaram.

The eccentricity of the premise obviously has a ‘realistic’ explanation involving the supernatural. However, the metaphysical aspect of the film would continue to poke around in the audience’s mind. It is the eternal question of “What if?” “Nanpakal” explores the inexplicable longing for the unknown. The longing that makes us wonder about life in a nameless place. The places we see passing us on a bus or train journey. James’ stupor as Sundaram could very well be his consciousness rebelling against his existing life.

“Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam” is not only another great addition to Lijo Jose Pellissery’s stellar filmography, but it also could be one of the finest additions to Mammootty’s vast filmography. And that would be saying something, as Mammootty has acted in over 400 films.

Related Read: Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) Review: An ‘In Between’ Story That Blurs the Lines between Reality and Dreams

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) Movie Links: IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023) Movie Cast: Mammootty, Ramya Pandian, Ashokan


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Suvo Pyne

Middle of Nowhere, Nadir of Hope; Top of exertion.