Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better for Asians in Hollywood after the fluke tempestuous (and not entirely deserved, I might add) success of the seasons’s big blockbuster Rich Crazy Asians the film that features only actors of Asian origin , yet another Asian filmmaker has taken the global boxoffice by storm.
And this time, we Indians have a lot to be proud of. While Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t even have a token Indian representation in its cast or crew(I did catch a Sardarji valet in a hotel driveway shot) Searching, the new thriller released just a week after the hysterically applauded Crazy Rich Asians, is again giving Asians a renewed and exceptional identity in world cinema.
And this one is directed by the Indo-American filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty whose roots are in Hyderabad. Chaganty worked for a couple of years with Google before gravtitating full-time to filmmaking.
His stunning directorial debut Searching is set in the cyber universe where a distraught father attempts to locate his missing daughter.
Interestingly Chaganty, who grew up on a staple diet of Bollywood and Hollywood films,pitched Searching to the studios as a 8-minute short film. It was the producers who suggested that Chaganty turn the short film into a full-length feature film. The director initially declined the offer arguing that he didn’t want to stretch a good idea beyond a point.
However Aneesh Chaganty did finally make Searching as a feature film.Released on August 24 the film, made on a shoestrong budget with Korean star John Cho in the lead, has already established Chaganty as a filmmaker to reckon with. The ultimate compliment for this small-budgeted blockbuster came from the Crazy Rich Asians crew when they booked an entire theatre to watch Chaganty’s film.
The young filmmaker names Manoj Night Shyamalan as his main influence. No doubt Chaganty’s thriller-noire approach to cinema makes him the new ‘Night’ among Indo-American filmmakers. I fervently hope Chaganty’s career doesn’t follow Shyamalan’s trajectory.
There was a time after The Sixth Sense when Manoj Shayamalan who likes to be called ‘Night’ was seen as the brightest filmmakers from India in Hollywood.And then it all fell apart, film by film.Unbreakable that followed The Sixth Sense was received fairly. But soon after,Manoj rapidly declined into the night with Signs(2002), The Village(2004), The Lady In Water(2006) , The happening(2008) and worst of all the 3D abomination The Air Bender which apart from other atrocities, also revealed Dev ‘Slumdog’ Patel to be an extremely inept actor.To be honest one thought The Air Bender to be a kind of closure on Mr Shyamalam’s career as spook merchant.We thought it couldn’t get any worse.
But it did.
In how many more ways could Shyamalan tell the same Sixth Sense story over and over again? The eerie has become progressively dreary in Shayamalan’s oeuvre.
I remember just before the release of The Happening(not happening at all) I asked Shyamalan why his career lost momentum after The Sixth Sense.
Protesting loudly the filmmaker said, “I hear this a lot in India. It feels like everyone is five years behind. You can’t judge my career by the box office alone.”
Agreed, but I do hope Aneesh Chaganty remembers that being the new Shyamalan doesn’t mean that you turn blind to reality. Night can never be described as day.