Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Ending Explained – was James dreaming of the Tamid Nadu Village?

By Lori Meek
Published: March 17, 2023

We discuss the ending of the 2022 film Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam which will contain spoilers.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam’s true story inspiration was an old advert in which a young boy on the bus wakes from a nap and starts speaking in another language. Mammootty stars James, a man who awakes from a slumber into a trance-like state, believing he’s different. 

James is a middle-aged man on a pilgrimage trip with his wife, Sally (Ramya Suvi), his young son, his father-in-law (T. Suresh Babu), and their friends. The group of Malayali tourists went to visit Velankanni in the Tamil Nadu area from Kerala. James is introduced as the de-facto leader of the group. He’s portrayed as a bit of a killjoy who doesn’t drink and enjoys bossing people around. Despite his flaws, he’s also a kind husband and very generous to those around him, as it’s soon clear he’s the one who paid for the entire pilgrimage. 

As the bus returns to Kerala, the group tries passing the time by singing. Killjoy James immediately gets annoyed and orders everyone to be quiet. Soon enough, all the passengers fall into slumber, including James. When James wakes up, he asks the bus driver (Rajesh Sharma) to stop; he gets off and starts heading towards a nearby village. At first, the other passengers think James is just answering nature’s call. Instead, he heads straight to one of the houses, feeds the cow, pets the dog, and wakes up the lady of the house, Poovally (Ramya Pandian), with an inappropriate familiarity that leaves the poor woman stunned. 

Who was Sundaram?

Piece by piece, as the narrative unfolds, we find out that Poovally’s husband, Sundaram, disappeared less than two years before, and somehow James is acting as if he is the man returned. He does his errands, drinks with his friends, and speaks his Tamil language to perfection. Things James normally dislikes, such as Tamil cuisine and the customary sugary tea, he now loves. Despite no one recognizing him, James continues to move around the village as if he’d lived there his whole life. 

Both James and Sundaram’s wives are heartbroken and confused. The other group members try working out the situation with the village elders and Sundaram’s father. Only one person recognizes her son in James, Sundaram’s blind mother. 

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Ending Explained

On the second morning, James, in Sundaram’s persona, gets up early and heads out to run some errands. He tries selling milk to other villagers, but none of his customers recognize him. When he attempts to request money from the society office, he’s thrown out under suspicion of forging signatures. A temple looks nearly completed when he only remembers the start of the construction work. His regular barber passed away more than six months prior. And when he finally looks into a mirror, the man is horrified not to recognize his reflection. 

Back in the village, James’s friends and the locals come up with a plan to sedate him and forcefully take him back to the bus. Poovally is not comfortable with the idea of sedating the man, acting just like her husband, and neither is Sundaram’s daughter. 

Upon his return, James joins Sundaram’s father for a meal and insists his daughter also sits down and eats with him. He appears upset and confused, especially after Sundaram’s hot-headed brother walks in and calls him a “fraudster.” Poor James doesn’t understand why no one in the village recognizes him nor why he can’t even recognize himself in the mirror. He knows something is off but can’t put it into words. Instead, he eats his meal and falls into a deep slumber. 

Everyone in the village, along with James’s family and the rest of the travelers, also falls asleep together. During his nap, James sees flashing images of the real Sundaram before waking up and finally recognizing his real wife and son. He embraces his family before leading the whole group of confused passengers out of the village. 

In the final scene, James is back on the bus and is the only one not sleeping. As the bus drives off, we can see it belongs to a theatre group, and Sundaram’s dog starts running after it. 

Was James dreaming of the Tamil Nadu Village?

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam’s ending is as ambiguous and open to interpretation as possible. That final scene showing James as the only person awake on the bus implies that the events in the Tamil Nadu village were just part of the protagonist’s dream, which would also be in line with the film’s translated title, Like An Afternoon Dream. 

If it were a dream, however, we would see the film play out solely from James’s perspective. Instead, we have multiple scenes centered on James’s family and friends interacting with Sundaram’s family that the protagonist couldn’t have possibly overheard. And Sundaram’s dog following the bus further implies that the missing man’s ghost possessed James while he was asleep on the bus and left his body while he was napping the following afternoon. 

What did you think of the ending of the 2022 film Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam? Comment below.

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