Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Review - The Spirit Realm
Hands down, there are a handful of filmmakers who can try such variations and attempt something different every time and Lijo stands tall in that list. After his last beja fry Churuli movie, he is back with a gentle and more accessible film with a touch of art form. It would not surprise me if viewers had a whole range of different reactions towards the end to ascertain if its real or hallucination. The film never focuses on how part but it is a free realization of the experience what Lijo gave us in this is real vs unreal border lined theme.
The film starts with a theater troupe group visit to Velankanni church in Tamil Nadu and focus the story from the point of view of the group leader James (played by Mamooty). He is an old school guy who has specific taste for food, songs and cultural aspects. On their return journey something happens (the how part is not the key here) in the bus, it subtly shown as a huge vibration though bus window pane and a wake-up from a noon nap. A split personality occurs and James becomes a different person totally and he make his way to nearby village as if he belongs there.
What follows in the village with his friends / families forms the rest. You will see similar change in behaviors of a group of people in Churuli when they cross an evil bridge. Here Lijo uses the Thirukkural subtext "Like falling asleep, is Death; Like waking up from sleep, is Birth". The birth of new man Sundaram is superbly constructed by Mamooty. The re-contextualizing one's past is the highlight of the film. Lijo's film are not that much focused on performance but here he gave ample space for the protagonist. Though not his best in terms of performance, Mamooty did what he is best at. The cultural barriers and some unspoken words between Sundaram family and James family through frames stand out.
The film has a clear cut division into two parts and narrative style is heavily propelled by yesteryear Tamil songs and movie dialogue. Those to me after a point became a pain as the background and foreground became too busy for us to focus. The humor part did not strike me at all. It strangely is hypnotic and metaphoric in the way that it melds sound and static visual compositions to create the mood. There are few moments of emotional undertones captured beautifully which propels the slow paced nature of the story. The saying is true sometimes dreams are wiser than waking and in a way dreams reflect, at least in part, our subconscious workings. Another winning experiment from LJP with a limited success in theater for sure. Even with a 2 hour run time, I felt it bit boring as its short story stretched into a film.
Verdict - 3/5(A dual tone experience)