Critic’s Rating : 3.5 / 5
Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Movie Review : A Lijo-world with a Mammootty awesomeness
Review: Watching Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is like being at the Kochi Muziris Biennale, the contemporary art exhibition which is currently on in Fort Kochi. You feel you have seen something fairly awesome, though you were a bit sceptical about whether the hype will be worth it. But you are also not very sure what it was about.
Lijo Jose Pellissery’s movies are less about the story and more about characters, heightened emotions, surreal moments and creating an atmosphere; it’s a mood.
Mammootty plays James, a peevish patriarch, who is returning with his wife and son, and extended family from a pilgrimage to Vellankanni. While everyone in the coach falls asleep on the journey back, James suddenly wakes up, tells the driver to stop the vehicle and walks along a field into a rustic Tamil rural homestead. He confidently navigates the village lanes and walks into a house and assumes the persona of the missing householder Sundaram, whose parents, wife and daughter live there. Then begins an exercise for his puzzled Kerala group, who gradually wake up in the bus and track him down, to understand what is happening and take him back and for the Tamil hosts, who are equally clueless about the situation, to aid the former. And the situation resolves after a stressful day for all involved.
Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is open-ended and there is no explanation for how James becomes Sundaram. Is it schizophrenia? Is he possessed? How does he seem to know some things? Your guess is as good as anyone, and the film will definitely have you defending different theories. But basically, it is probably about trying to pick a different life from the one you live regularly and finally figuring out for yourself, rather than from others telling you, what is your truth. Maybe.
Mammootty deserves an encore of standing ovations from the audience for brilliantly raising the bar on his game yet again after a bunch of interesting roles, in Puzhu, Rorsarch and others in 2022. He shoulders S Hareesh’s screenplay on Lijo’s story and is the solid axis around which a bunch of talented side actors revolve. He is James and makes the baffling transformation into Sundaram smoothly and gives the movie its credibility.
Lijo’s direction is better in the movie for being less flamboyant and more mature, though it is not without fault. The soundtrack in the background can sometimes get confusing and feel annoyingly repetitive. And the subtitling is inconsistent.
But Lijo is aided nicely by cinematographer Theni Eswar in capturing the beauty and the quirks of the village, and creating that Lijo-world. For a surreal, trance-like movie, it is important that the frames transport the viewer and Theni does this well.
Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam generated massive interest at the International Film Festival of Kerala in December, thanks to the Mammootty-Lijo combination. The film looks like it will continue to generate a buzz at its theatrical run.