By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: There was a time after The Sixth Sense when Manoj Shyamalan – who likes to be called ‘Night’ and whose birthday falls on August 6 – 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 Shyamalan’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 Shyamalan’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 that showcases Will Smith’s fatherly feelings in quite the same way that the other release this week Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 does. If Dharmendra can pull himself out of semi-retirement to give his sons Sunny and Bobby 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 Mr Smith’s own 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 estoteric 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 …
Maybe Mr Smith and the Deols need to exchange notes on how to channelize 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 Shaymalan would like us to judge his career now after After Earth.