Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam and Lijo’s still frames
Cast: Mammootty, Ashokan, Ramya Suvi, Ramya Pandian, and others
Directed by: Lijo Jose Pellissery
With years of a successful career, it is normal for actors to take the safer road, but not for Mammootty. In the past couple of years, the enthusiasm and passion he has shown, and the creative risks he has taken, which today stands at Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, are beyond inspiring. I am very sure that the film would not have reached completion if Mammootty was not on board.
I have not closely observed Lijo Jose Pellissery’s work and hence Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam was a tough nut to crack for me. The hidden meanings, the references, everything was new and I took my time to understand his craft. Infamously known as the ‘Master of chaos’, Lijo Jose Pellissery takes off this sachet for Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam. All you see is stillness in his frames. It’s peaceful. And these still frames tell most of the story.
James, played by Mammootty, is returning from a Velankanni trip with his troupe. Are they actors in James’ theatre group, or are they his relative, I’m not sure. There are many things in the film that are not really disclosed. James seems like a killjoy, overly obsessed about the accounts, and doesn’t want to engage in any camaraderie with his fellow tourists. The bus they are traveling in takes a route through rural Tamil Nadu and James is disgusted by the people there. He hates the tea as it is too sugary and when the driver plays a Tamil song, James insists that he change it to a Malayalam song. With the Malayalam song playing in the background, exhausted from the trip, everyone falls into a deep slumber, including James. The bus reaches the middle of nowhere when James wakes up. You will notice that the Malayalam song playing on the bus now has changed to a Tamil song. James asks the driver to stop, gets down, and starts walking like he knows the place. He walks and walks and enters a house and behaves like the man of that house, Sundaram. How and why does James become Sundaram after an afternoon slumber (as the name translates “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam”, an afternoon slumber)? What is the phenomenon that led to this surprising transition? We will never know. Perhaps that adds to the element of the film.
Beautifully crafted film
The whole film is open to interpretation. If you dig Reddit and YouTube, you will see several fan theories that interpret the climax and certain scenes in many ways. There is no one proper answer!
Most of the film takes place in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu. And it is the sound from a household television that is apparently turned on 24×7 that serves as the background score of the film. It is exciting how most of this sound aligns with the scene’s emotions. Now if you are not from South India, then this may be lost on you.
As mentioned earlier, the frames are still, maybe slightly referencing the “theatre” format, as if all this is a theatre drama playing out. Again, not very well-versed to understand Lijo’s craft, so I might be wrong here.
Mammootty, who also produced the film, is an actor with a towering screen presence and charm. However, he does not let his epic grandeur get in the way of his astounding performances and overshadows the simplicity of his characters. He lives and breathes the characters, shifting between James and Sundar smartly. The man is a pure genius.
If closely observed, there are several dialogs and scenes that have a philosophical element to them, hinting at the fate of humanity and life. I guess only true fans can actually decode the “Lijo Jose Pellissery brilliance”.
Have you watched the film? Drop in your comments, I would love to know what you think of the film.
Image Courtesy: YouTube
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