Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Explained: What really happened?

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is a Tamil-Malayalam psychological drama with exceptional art value. It’s written and directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, who also brought us crazy films like Churuli. The film stars Mammootty as an irritable man who randomly wanders into a village in a trance. The film is calm but crazy and leaves us with a dozen questions as it ends. So, here’s the plot and ending of Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam explained; spoilers ahead.

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Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answerYou can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.


Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

About that bus – I lived in Trivandrum for a short while, and that bus is incredible because it’s small yet very tall. This makes it easy to stand and dance without banging your head as you and your friends navigate the roads of Kerala. While that sounds exceptionally random, it is nothing compared to what this movie offers.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam: Plot Explained In Short

James, a Malayali on his way back from Velankani with his tour group, randomly stops the bus and gets off at a remote village. He deboards and walks confidently into the small town, enters what appears to be a random house and takes on the identity of one of the house members, Sundaram. 

James now believes he is a Tamilan and moves around the town, conversing with people as if he knows them closely. Everyone else in town is fully confused about who this individual is. The film then discloses that Sundaram went missing a couple of years ago, and James not only claims he is Sundaram but has his exact mannerisms, which confuses Sundaram’s family.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Plot

James’ wife and kid, along with the tour group, try to convince James to return with them, but he claims not to recognize them. The town folk and the tour group plan to drug James to sleep so the tour group can take him back with them. Before they do that, James snaps out of it and asks to leave with his group. As the bus drives away, the film comes to a close.

Now, there are three theories that everyone talks about, but if you look closely, none of them really fit. Let’s go through these possibilities, after which we’ll talk about what I think really happened.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Theory 1: Sundaram’s ghost possessed James

The supernatural comes to everyone’s mind because of the eeriness of the situation. Given that Sundaram mysteriously disappeared, it is possible he died years back and possessed James to be back in his town with his family. While on the surface, it looks like a viable theory, especially because the director mentions he was inspired by an old ad with this theme. The main issue with this theory is how James snaps out of it. James realizes what he has been doing in that town and feels embarrassed. He calmly asks to leave with his family. Had James been possessed and released, he’d be very dazed and confused and look to his people for answers as to what he was doing in that town.

Here’s the ad that was an inspiration for this film.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Theory 2: It was all a dream

It could have been that James snoozed and dreamt the whole thing on that hot summer afternoon, as the movie’s name suggests. So this means the bus may have halted briefly, or not even, but James never left the bus, nor did he go into the town. While the theory “it was all in his head” always perfectly answers all the otherwise inconsistent moments, it also obliterates the film. Unfortunately, the question “What really happened?” gets replaced by, “What was the point, and why did I even watch this?”. All that beautiful cinematography centred on a lovely village was all merely in his head – the things anticlimaxes are made of.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Theory 3: James has Multiple Personality Disorder

James could have DID or Dissociative Identity Disorder, where a person believes they are someone else and take on a whole other persona with a great deal of accuracy. The movie Anniyan is a fun, over-the-top representation of this disorder. This means that James’ disorder made him believe he was another person, and that’s why he wandered into that town.

However, there are several problems with this theory. James is not just a stranger in the town; his mannerisms match Sundaram’s, who went missing years ago. James also seems to know people by name. He even knows his old barber’s name and realizes that he has been dead for six months. DID is not a supernatural situation where a person’s mind can imbibe information about a random town, its people and even their language. While the theory that he’s got schizophrenia is okay, the extent of details James knows doesn’t add up.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Explained: So what really happened then?

This explanation is a little nuts, so you’ll need to stay with me here. Firstly, what are the two things we know?

  • James knew many things about that town, like people and directions.
  • James has a moment of realization as to what he’s been doing, which brings him to tears.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam makes it clear that James has been visiting that town for many years, from before Sundaram disappeared and in his time there, James has been observing the town’s people. He has had an unsaid obsession over that village, culminating with him impersonating Sundaram.

But why did James obsess over that town?

A hint comes in the form of the board on the bus, which reads “Sarathi Theaters” on the front and “Sarathi Theatres presents Oridathu (At One Place) written and directed by Thilakan”. The film doesn’t go into James’ life, his profession, his past, etc. So we’ll have to speculate. What if James was a failed actor or director? And he wanted to make a play/movie, and that village was his secret case study years ago. As part of the creation process, perhaps he got over-obsessed with the town, Sundaram, and his family.

The Bus Sarathi Theatres

What if the failure of his goals played a hard number on his mind years back? And that afternoon, James ended up playing the protagonist in the story he wrote set in that village, the role of Sundaram. Are you thinking, “That is what DID is, the theory you abandoned, Barry”? Yes, it is, but with a backstory, James has a reason to develop an alternate personality over time and not in an instant. And lurking around that town over the years explains how he knows all the details about the place and its people. Learning and speaking a language fluently would also take long, so James clearly has had enough time in that town.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam: Ending Explained

In the ending of Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, when Sundaram (James) is told his barber died months ago, it finally dawns on him that he has many gaping holes in his memory. He is not who he thinks he is. He tearfully eats lunch as he slowly wakes up to be James again. Heartbroken and embarrassed, James walks up to his family and asks to return home with them.

Wanna get a little darker? What if, many years ago, James was responsible for Sundaram’s mysterious disappearance? While not cognitively aware, James may have ‘removed’ Sundaram years ago to develop his story and eventually returned to fill his role. I know it’s bonkers to think this, but hey, with a film this crazy, theories need to be crazy, too.

What did you think about the plot and ending of the movie Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam? Liked it? Hated it? Have a theory you want to talk about? Drop a comment below!