Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Malayalam Movie
Lijo Jose Pellissery's Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is a film so brilliant and bizarre that it is best enjoyed if you submit to it. In some ways, it reminds me of Japanese filmmaker Hayayo Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," where a teenager goes into a world full of mysterious creatures when her parents take a wrong turn. In Pellissery's film, the characters and even the audience make a detour to a world no less mysterious.
At the start of the film, we see a crew of Malayalis returning from a Velankanni trip. James (Mammootty) is a miserly man who does not quite join the rest of the crew in all the fun stuff, like drinking and singing. James has an eye for detail and is very particular about some things, like the choice of songs on their tour bus. To some extent, knowing these traits of the protagonist is important to making sense of the movie. As he vacates his lodge, James looks at a passage from Tamil literature, the Kural, on the wall that talks about reincarnation. He asks the receptionist what the Tamil text means, and the latter explains it to him, and this explanation portends what happens later.
At some point in their journey back home, the whole crew takes a nap, but James wakes up as a different man and casually walks into a Tamil village like a man possessed. All of a sudden, James becomes Sundaram, a Tamil-speaking villager. How is this possible? Is James really a con artist? Do all these events take place? Or, are they figments of James' imagination?
There are no clear answers, but Pellissery leaves some room for speculation. Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam does not really make everything clear to the audience, but this may be a good thing. Some movies work best with an element of mystery, and this is one of them.
I want to discuss a fan theory here, but I am not doing it because it would amount to some spoilers. Even if you fail to make head or tail of the story, Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam may still work for you because it is also a fascinating tale of dual identities. The movie is also about how the families of James and Sundaram react to their plight.
With his DOP, Theni Eashwar, Pellissery creates some spellbinding images and sequences. The movie is shot in such a way that it allows us to observe the whole situation play out as an outsider looking in. This is evident even in a scene where Mammootty is simply riding a motorcycle. The filming makes us feel as trapped in the village as many of the characters.
Nanpakal sits comfortably with Pellissery's brand of mind-bending, genre-bending cinema. He is an auteur, a filmmaker with an uncanny knack for storytelling. Mammootty also does some of his best work here. In praise of Meryl Streep, actor-comedian Jim Carrey once described her as a "shapeshifter" and a "bodysnatcher." Mammootty transforms himself into two different personalities with very little change in appearance. His portrayal of the Tamil-speaking guy, in particular, is so authentic and magical that he deserves his own movie.
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