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The fall and fall of Manoj Night Shyamalan

By Subhash K. Jha: There was a time after 1999 movie "The Sixth Sense" when filmmaker Manoj N. Shayamalan 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", which apart from other atrocities, also revealed Dev 'Slumdog' Patel to be an extremely inept actor.

To be honest, one thought that 2010 release "The Last Airbender" to be a kind of closure on Shyamalam's career as spook merchant. We thought it couldn't get any worse.

But it just 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 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.

Anything. Not this new film "After Earth" that showcases Will Smith's fatherly feelings in quite the same way that the other release this week "Yamla Pagla Deewana 2", a Hindi film, does.

If Dharmendra can pull himself out of semi-retirement to give his sons Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol a hand-up at the box office, why not Will Smith?

Earlier, Will and his son Jaden got together for "The Pursuit of Happyness". That film showed its makers couldn't spell correctly. This one exposes the people behind it can't make a movie correctly.

"After Earth" is a film set a 1,000 years from now when father and son Smith crash-land on earth. The earth, we are told, has witnessed a catastrophic end. But no catastrophe on earth can compare with what Shyamalan has done to the very charismatic Will Smith. This one is "Heaven's Gate" and "Jack The Giant Slayer" combined.

Blinded by fatherly affection, Will Smith sets out on a cinematic journey that takes him down several notches with no help from his director to reduce the momentum of the fall. The film doesn't move forward. It gambols in stylish zigzags that are meant to form some kind of an esoteric eerie pattern.

Finally, though, we are left with undecipherable shapes and signs signifying a state of heightened dementia. We are left looking at a film, which is as deplorably misguided in its filial impulses as "Yamla Pagla Deewana 2".

Maybe Hollywood's Will Smith and Bollywood's Deols - Dharmendra and his two sons Sunny and Bobby - need to exchange notes on how to channelise the family resources in a pool of productivity.

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."

I'd like to know how Shyamalan would like us to judge his career now after "After Earth".

--IANS (Posted on 09-06-2013)

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