Recently I saw a wonderful Malayalam movie, ‘Nanpakal nerathu mayakkam’ (titled ‘Like an afternoon dream’ in English). The movie, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery with Mammootty in the lead role, tells a simple but strange story. A Christian group from Kerala that has gone to Tamilnadu for a pilgrimage is on the way back home in their minibus. When everyone in the bus is asleep in the afternoon, James (Mammootty), the group leader, wakes up and asks the driver to stop the bus in the middle of a deserted stretch of road in rural Tamilnadu. He gets off and walks purposefully through the fields, through the lanes of a nearby village and directly into a house with an old man sleeping on the veranda and his old blind wife listening to a movie on TV. Sundaram, the son of the house had gone missing two years ago and, strangely, James has now started walking and talking like him. The city-dwelling, Malayalam-speaking James has suddenly become transformed into the village-dwelling, Tamil-speaking Sundaram. There is much confusion with Sundaram’s wife and daughter, the villagers, and with the Kerala group that includes James’ wife and son. Finally, the next afternoon, James as Sundaram goes to sleep and wakes up as his original self. The movie has many layers of imagery and sound that I will not get into but will let you watch and find out for yourself. I wanted to talk about the movie because of some unusual Bharatiya overtones it carries.
Firstly, the movie is shot almost entirely with static wide-angle shots. This highlights and brings out the beauty of the backgrounds in which the action is happening. This includes the fields around the village, the lanes and houses of the village, the insides of the village buildings etc. Everything that the camera captures is beautiful and vibrantly alive. The stereotype of the ‘backward’ village that we get educated into is completely absent.
Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in the way that the city folk from Kerala and the village folk from Tamilnadu behave once they both realize that they have a problem they have to solve together-to get James back to Kerala. There are wise and foolish people in both groups and they communicate in Malayalam and Tamil and, in spite of their bewilderment, are all finally willing to wait and give time for whatever strange process is going on with James. One of the older men from the village says that the group is after all coming back from a pilgrimage and sometimes strange things happen.
Lastly, the movie does not talk down to its audience and gives no explanations or justifications for what is being shown and leaves the interpretations to the viewer.
I recommend that you take the time to watch this movie and hope that it warms your heart as it did mine. Do add a comment here if you see the movie.