‘Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam’ Character: James Or Sundaram, Explained – Was He Dreaming The Entire Film?

Lijo Jose has a love for giving the audience a character that will have many shades, easily likable to easily not so likable. We had Antony and Kala Varkey in “Jallikattu,” Vincent Pepe in “Angamaly Diaries,” and Jyoti Lal and Sony Vadayatill in “City of God.” All these characters, when they were presented in front of the audience on the big screen, came across as people who have made mistakes, but there are shades of goodness in them too. James in “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam” is a typical man who is leading a life as a father and who doesn’t go out of his way to be seen as likable. But there are traits in him that make him a man who makes sure he is there for his family. “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam,” loosely translated to “a beautiful nap in the afternoon,” is all about things that change the moment everyone around James, including him, goes into a food-induced coma after a heavy lunch. Isn’t that common in every Indian household? A long sleep or a cat nap after a sumptuous meal, Lijo gives us the twist no one expects.


With the screenplay written by S. Hareesh, “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam” interestingly explores the lead character, James. James is the father of a teenager and a dutiful husband who loves his wife and son as any father should do. Yes, he has his moody behaviors, which include not worrying about what the world thinks of him and not pretending to like and follow popular trends, and bucking social norms by doing so. James comes across as a grumpy man who is, at times, a miser and, at times, a man who questions his faith, making sure other people hear it too. He does not shy away from putting across his thoughts, even if that means hurting the sentiments of his friends, acquaintances, or in-laws. James, as a character, might come across as patriarchal at places in the film, but only in some percentages. He is just someone who is not easily likable, which does not make him male chauvinistic.

“Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam” becomes interesting quite early in the running time of the film when James wakes up from his nap and suddenly asks the bus driver to stop the vehicle. The driver does as he is told, and James walks away into a large field, which leads him to a sleepy village where others are also indulging in an afternoon siesta. It is not understood what went on for him to make the quick decision of deboarding the bus and entering the village unexpectedly. James enters a sleepy home and starts living as the man of that house. He is not related to anyone in the family, and they are all shocked to see a stranger walking into their home and claiming the household as his own. James takes over the kitchen as well and starts speaking the local Tamil dialect fluently. The family is still figuring things out, especially Puvally, who is wondering about this stranger conversing with her as though nothing has changed in their lives. There is an air of perplexity in the scenario as well as in the audience, revolving around finding out what happened to James. James is now Sundaram, the breadwinner of the household, acting as if nothing has changed for a long time, which includes his blind mother, aging father, worried wife Puvally, and teenage daughter.


It is hard to understand what happened to James to make him behave the way he does. James, who is now Sundaram, is the exact opposite personality of James. He is talkative, recites lines from famous films, recites stories to strangers, sings popular songs, is an easily likable man, and is someone who goes out of his way to help people and loves drinking his share of alcohol from time to time. As half a day goes into catching hold of James, who can barely recognise the people who have been with him all this time, including his wife and son, Sundaram is an explorer as a person, who takes up the Luna bike and starts driving around the town while Sundaram’s actual family and James’s family panic, unable to get a hold of this man who is on a spree. Sundaram goes from place to place in one town. Sundaram’s actions here sharply construct those James would have taken. James would not indulge in such so-called activities that would make him smile, but Sundaram does not shy away from laughing and cracking jokes and making sure the public is entertained by his antics. As the film passes the halfway mark, it is easy to understand why Sundaram wants to spend time with his family. He refuses to go with his actual family and does not acknowledge them. James has not come to his senses yet and is still under a spell. It is not mentioned what happened to James to be taking over an entire household as the man of the house.

As Sundaram starts navigating around, James begins to visit local temples, but he is also intrigued to see a new temple being constructed in his hamlet. He is also shocked to see his usual barber not alive anymore. The biggest jolt that Sundaram receives is when he looks into the mirror. It is a deconstruction of his identity when he sees himself in the mirror. With the changes around him Sundaram realizes things are not the same anymore which means he cannot do anything to make things right. He gets upset with his brother for asking him to leave their home, and his daughter is unwilling to have a meal with him. Sundaram is heartbroken over the pace at which things change around him. There is no way he is okay with such changes. James, like Sundaram, has a physical aversion to all of this. As Sundaram takes a nap after his heavy lunch, he starts dreaming of a cloud that is clearing in his head, which can be symbolic of the cloud that has engulfed James’ mind and slowly started clearing. James wakes up to see his friends and family surrounding him. James is still unaware of what happened to him. He is yet to discover the fact that he was living the life of Sundaram in the last 24 hours. James and his family leave the village, wondering what happened.


The end is such that it is not easy to crack. Something like that of Inception. Was that his dream or not? The possibility of it being James’s dream is high. The scenario in the film that James goes through as Sundaram is something that can be expected only in a dream. Until that point, James was not shown to have any characteristics of a person suffering from dissociative identity disorder, although it is highly unlikely he has it. James’s 24-hour transition from a man who dislikes plenty of things to becoming a man who is willing to be an entertainer for his village. James and Sundaram are chalk and cheese in the film, but it is interesting to know a man who dreamed this scenario because James is a playwright, something revealed by the end of the film. A dream such as this can be used as written material for the benefit of any upcoming of his theater group’s shows. The ending of this film is about why James was Sundaram for the full 24 hours and what made him come back to his usual self. “Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam” is an interesting character study of not one but two characters played by one actor. There is humor, drama, self-introspection, denial, arrogance, and anger portrayed by one actor via James and Sundaram. A film with so many questions needs an answer, but sometimes it is better to leave it be and not seek it.

See more: ‘Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam’ Ending, Explained: Does James Come Out Of His Possession State?

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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