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Manoj Night Shyamalan: Time For A Comeback?



M. Night Shyamalan

This birthday  Manoj Night Shyamalan who is regarded as  the  master of  the thriller-horror-suspense genre is back in the  gore game with Old, a  rapid-aging saga  which has garnered  mixed reviews, like most of the Indian auteur’s recent films.

Manoj Night Shyamalan has been one of the few filmmakers of Indian origin who have made their mark in Hollywood and his work has been acknowledged by India, which has honoured him with the Padma Shri.

“It was great! It made me feel re-connected with my roots. It made me feel India understood the relevance of a journey that was so meaningful to me,” Manoj Night Shyamalan told me  in an interview  some years  ago

There was a time after 1999 movie “The Sixth Sense” when filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamalan was seen as the brightest filmmakers from India in Hollywood.And then it all fell apart, film by film.”Unbreakable” (2000) that followed “The Sixth Sense” was received fairly. But soon after, Shyamalan 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 Last Airbender.

To be honest, one thought that 2010 release “The Last Airbender” to be a kind of closure onManoj Night Shyamalan‘s career as a merchant of  spookiness. We thought it couldn’t get any worse.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 for one waited to see him reinvent his career by taking on another genre…say, a comedy about a dead man who can see alive people.

“After Earth” that showcased Will Smith’s fatherly feelings was  set a 1,000 years from now when father and son Smith crash-landed on earth. The earth, we are told, has witnessed a catastrophic end. But no catastrophe on earth can compare with what Shyamalan did  to the very charismatic Will Smith. This one is “Heaven’s Gate” and “Jack The Giant Slayer” combined.

I remember just before the release of “The Happening” (not happening at all), I asked Manoj Night 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.You can’t judge my career by the box-office alone. When I go to Europe they talk mainly about my (newer films) ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘The Village’”.

He had  also explained,  “I never had an agenda. All my movies are conversations about faith. The supernatural element just happened. I think my life illustrates a shift in culture where I may be American. But at heart I remain very Indian.”

When told that “The Sixth Sense” remains a most ripped-off film, he said, “At the end of the day we’re all borrowing from one another. I was ripping off Steven Spielberg anyway. I even told Steven that.I feel four of my films are better than “The Sixth Sense”.”Unbreakable”, “Lady In The Water”, “The Village” and my latest film “The Happening”. But I think “The Sixth Sense” is better than “Signs”.At the end of the day we’re all borrowing from one another. I was ripping off Steven Spielberg anyway. No, seriously. I even told Steven that. After I finished my latest film “The Happening” I watched “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers”. The opening credits of both films are the same! It just happened.”

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