(Last Updated on : 11-02-2015)
Manoj Night Shyamalan, alias Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan is a director, screenwriter and actor. Shyamalan had a very early passion for filmmaking and as a child; he carouses in making up stories. At the age of 10 he began making film with his father's 8mm camera. Primarily Steven Spielberg's films inspired him, and by age 16, he had made over 45 short films.
Shyamalan was born on 6th August in 1970 in Mahe, Pondicherry. His parents Nelliyate C Shyamalan and Jayalakshmi both were doctors. They moved to United States after the birth of their first child Veena. Shyamalan was raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. In 1993, Shyamalan married Indian psychologist Bhavna Vaswani, a fellow student whom he had met at NYU and with whom he has had two daughters. As of mid-2006, the family resides in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
Catholic grammar school Waldron Mercy Academy followed by The Episcopal Academy, a private Episcopalian high school in nearby Lower Merion were his schools. He had his early education at a Catholic Private School and Philadelphia's Episcopal Academy. Although he received scholarships to several medical schools, Shyamalan chose to attend the Tisch School of Arts at New York University to study filmmaking. His middle name Night was made up during college.
Shyamalan's directorial debut "Praying With anger" was released in 1992. It is a story of a young man returning to India to explore his heritage named as Dev Raman. Shyamalan wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which was about a young Indian American's return to India. The title of the movie comes from a moment in the film when Dev learns that he is able to pray to Hindu deities with almost any emotion except indifference. Upon realizing this, Raman finds he is only able to pray with anger. To date, the film has been shown primarily at film festivals and never received a wide release for mainstream distribution.
"Wide Awake" was Shyamalan's first major feature film. It came from a screen play written by Shyamalan. Then up-and-coming independent film studio Miramax purchased the screen play. The film follows a young boy's search for God after his grandfather dies, a story told quietly, driven by dialogue. "Wide Awake" was filmed in a school Shyamalan attended as a child and earned 1999 Young Artist Award nominations for Best Drama, and, for Cross, Best Performance. It was produced by Cary Woods and Cathy Konrad. The film stared Joseph Cross, Rosie O'Donnell, Dana Delaney, Denis Leary, and Robert Loggia. "Wide Awake" also featured Julia Stiles in one of her earliest roles as Josh's teenage sister, Nina. Although Wide Awake was made in 1995, it was not released until 1998 where it grossed a total of only $288,000 against a production budget of $7 million. It is the only Shyamalan-directed film to date in which the director does not make a cameo appearance. The film is similar to later Shyamalan films with a theme of crises of belief.
Shyamalan's commercial success came in 1999 when he wrote, directed, and produced "The Sixth Sense". The movie was a supernatural drama about a psychologist who blames himself for a patient's suicide and his own broken marriage. The psychologist feels he has a chance to redeem himself after meeting a disturbed child who claims to see people who have died. According to the book DisneyWar, David Vogel of The Walt Disney Company read Shyamalan's script and bought the rights to it for a high $2 million and allowed Shyamalan to direct, without obtaining approval from his superiors.Vogel's bosses, disagreeing with his decision, sold the profits to Spyglass Entertainment and kept only a 12.5 percent distribution fee for itself. The Sixth Sense was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor for Osment, Best Supporting Actress for Toni Collette, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.The film grossed over $600 million at the box office worldwide while it had a $40-million budget.
Following the success of this film he directed another supernatural thriller 'Unbreakable' in 2000'. This film about a man who undergoes mysterious changes following a train accident. With a budget of $75 million, the movie failed to make a net profit domestically. It collects $154 million worldwide.
In 2002, Shyamalan directed another film 'Signs' an emotional story that deals with crop circles in a rural Pennsylvania town. It is a science fiction drama of a rural Pennsylvania pastor played by Mel Gibson, who has lost his faith after his wife's death and regains it with his family as they witness the worldwide events of an alien invasion. The film received a generally positive reception. Most notably Roger Ebert's four-star review stating, "M. Night Shyamalan's Signs is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air. When it is over, we think not how little has been decided, but how much has been experienced". It was the highest-grossing film as well as the highest opening-weekend gross ($60 million) of Mel Gibson's career as an actor.
After that in 2004 Shyamalan came with the chilling tale of a close-knit community that lives with the frightening knowledge that the village is encircled by a forest and said to be filled with mysterious and threatening creatures. The courage of one young man who challenges the unknown creatures has been told in the film 'The village'. The film explores the dynamics of an insular turn-of-the-20th-century village and the collective fears of its members. The film is a commercial disappointment. Critical response was mostly negative. Shyamalan expressed a great deal of regret in the way the film was marketed. The Village earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
"Lady in the Water" is a fantasy about a Philadelphia apartment-complex maintenance man, Cleveland Heep who discovers a young woman named Story in the swimming pool. Gradually, he and others in the complex learn that she is a water nymph who has come to "the world of man" to bring inspiration to someone in the complex. Her life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature that tries to keep her from returning to her watery "blue world". The movie released on July 21, 2006. "Lady in the Water" went on to receive four Golden Raspberry Award nominations in the categories of Worst Supporting Actor, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture. Three of which were for Shyamalan himself. Shyamalan later won two of the awards, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Director.
It was announced On January 8, 2007 that Shyamalan would write, direct and produce the live-action adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender", a popular animated series on the kids' cable channel Nickelodeon, a series influenced by Asian art, mythology and fighting styles.
His next venture "The Happening" is a 2008 film starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel. Production will begin in August in Philadelphia. "The Happening" is a paranoid thriller in which a family must survive a global environmental crisis. The film will be Shyamalan's first R-rated film i.e.suitable for those under 17 years of age only when accompanied by an adult. "The Happening" will be released on June 13, 2008.
Now Shyamalan is working on a new project called The Life Of Pi that will be shot in Pondicherry, India, his birthplace. He has also directed an American Express commercial, which was debuted during the 2006 Oscars. He also wrote the screenplay of the movie "Stuart Little".
Critics states that Shyamalan is a better director than screenwriter. Some of them have also suggested that he would be more successful by hiring a screenwriter to help translate his stories to the big screen.He has also been labeled a "one-trick pony" for his continuous use of the "twist" element in his screenplays. Manoj Night Shyamalan has become the most recognized Indian name in Hollywood with his phenomenal success.