Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023)

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023)

Director Lijo Jose Pellissary invites us to Tamil Nadu in this dreamlike slice-of-life film



Malayalam, Tamil
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Ashokan, Ashwanth Ashokkumar, Mammootty
107 min

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It really DOES feel like an afternoon dream.

What it's about

Coming home from a pilgrimage to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, middle-aged Malayali tour guide James gets irritated with the culture, cuisine, and the language barrier. However, while the tour bus stops in the middle of nowhere, James wakes up as Sundaram, a Tamil man, who walks into a village, interacting with locals as if he’s lived there all this time.

The take

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam might not immediately make sense to audiences new to director Lijo Jose Pellissery, but it’s still an interesting film that depicts Tamil culture. Also known as Like an Afternoon Dream, the contemplative bilingual film is centered around a prejudiced Malayali tour guide who wakes up as another man, specifically someone fluent in Tamil, and walks into the nearby village. Through vignettes focused on the village inhabitants, the film slowly unravels the dynamics between each of the villagers, flitting back to the tour bus on occasion to see how they’re faring. While some of the comedy goes over viewer’s heads, especially for people unfamiliar with the state, the slow-paced film feels like a fond memory from Pellissery. The film doesn’t explain anything at all, in the same way strange dreams refuse to do.

What stands out

Whether or not you understand the film’s comedy, it’s undeniable that Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is downright stunning. Meticulously framed, each scene is oftentimes enclosed by doors, hallways, or windows, which gives the sense that the film is a portal to another world. The framed stillness emphasizes the characters’ movements, drawing the eye to actors through lines and contrast. This lovely mise en scene, paired with the village’s soundscape and Tamil soundtracks, helps create an atmosphere that makes it feel like you’re in the village itself.

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