When Manoj "Night" Shyamalan saw the bright light of fame, he was virtually unknown in the country of his birth. But he has been haunting Hollywood with his sixth sense. Shyamalan knew it was coming. He predicted "Sixth Sense" and its reception three years before he made it. Shyamalan was born in Pondicherry, India, but is a virtual stranger to the country of his birth. His doctor parents immigrated to the US when he was only eight months old. A bright student, Shyamalan was accepted to medical school but chose to attend the Tisch School of Arts at New York University to study filmmaking instead.
His father recalls that even as a child, Shyamalan was a storyteller. He would invent stories of ghosts, and found inspiration in films like ET, Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His stint with the camera began at the early age of 10, with his father's 8mm. By the time Shyamalan was 16, he had canned 45 short films. Shyamalan has been quoted as saying that he always knew that he would make it big in films. Appropriately preparing for the grand times to come, he cropped his tongue-twisting Indian middle name of Nelliote to the cinematic "Night".
Shyamalan made a grand commercial debut with "Praying with Anger" at 22. "Praying with Anger" is the story of an Indian exchange student who finds himself a stranger in his homeland. Shyamalan played the lead role and shot the film in Chennai, India. Five years later, his second directorial venture, "Wide Awake" bombed. The movie was filmed in Philadelphia, where Shyamalan lives with his wife Bhavana and their 3-year-old daughter Selitha. His next project is an "emotionally intelligent" commercial film.
After "Wide Awake", Shyamalan gave thought to writing a commercial movie and the long-sought opportunity came with everything on his wish list - Bruce Willis and a film about Shyamalan's childhood fears of ghosts - with backing from Hollywood.
In "Sixth Sense", eight-year-old Cole Sear is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. A helpless and reluctant channel, Cole is terrified by threatening visitations from ghosts with unresolved issues in their living lives. As child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe tries to uncover the ominous truth about Cole's powers and purpose, the consequence for client and therapist is a shock to both. Cole is eventually released from the haunting visits, but Dr. Crowe's catharsis is the most profound truth of the film.
In its second month of release, the psychological horror film had grossed more than $213 million in the United States.
The sheer energy of the characters drives the film, and its strength lies in the basic emotion - fear of the unknown - it evokes in viewers. The eerie pace of the movie is admittedly deliberate, and the focus is on subtle nuances, rather than on million-dollar special effects. "Sixth Sense" has been nominated for five Oscars. Best film, best director and best screenplay are included. "Night" Shyamalan's day has dawned.