We’re seeing a strong dose of tribalism globally: Indian American filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan

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M. Night Shyamalan

By Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi–M. Night Shyamalan, the US-based Indian-origin filmmaker, feels the wave of tribalism is taking over the world with people getting scared about losing their distinct identity. But the filmmaker says it is time to join the “larger group” and embrace the power of diversity.

The filmmaker is looking forward to the release of his film “Glass” — a superhero movie with a psychological twist.

Asked to point out one superpower the world needs right now, Shyamalan told IANS in an exclusive interview over the phone: “What we are seeing right now is a strong dose of tribalism where we are seeing nationalism from different countries… kind of rear its head.”

“This is a moment of globalisation and every country is worried that its distinct identity is going to go away and everybody is fighting for the old ways at the moment.

“But the courage to be part of a larger group, I don’t know if it is a superpower, but it is obviously something that we need right now,” added the filmmaker.

Talking about real life superheroes, he said: “We (my wife and I) have a foundation. And the format of the foundation is that we look for grassroot leaders around the world. My wife actually goes and finds them wherever they are in the world.

“If they pass the vetting process, then we ask them what they want and give them whatever they need. If they need money for the school bus, they want to dig a water well or want to build a school, we support them.

“They are amazing and they are the real life superheroes. They are kind of doing things in the war-torn areas and in areas where nobody can achieve any kind of good. And we are super inspired to be around these people.”

The director is happy with diversity wave making strides in the entertainment industry in the West.

“There is definitely a powerful message when people see heroes that look like other people or minorities get to see themselves in the protagonist’s position. It does cause a big change in the culture. And shifting of what is normal for a white family who is watching a show that has a non-white lead.”

He thinks it is a “powerful thing”.

“I think that there are important strides that are being made. And point of view is important…When you have non-white filmmakers or female filmmakers, we are going to get different types of stories, different types of strengths and we need those,” he said, quipping “I am non-white so I am probably biased about it all”.

With his roots tracing back to India, Shyamalan moved to the US as a child, and developed a passion to capture life through a camera when he was given one at the age of 8 — the moment nudged him towards filmmaking and inspired him to make a career out of it.

He made his first film “Praying with Anger” when he was 21, but his life changed after his breakout hit “The Sixth Sense” in 1999. He is also credited for projects like “The Visit”, “Wayward Pines”, “The Last Airbender”, “The Happening”, “After Earth”, “Split” and “Unbreakable”.

Now, he has converged the world of “Split” (a story about a man with over 20 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls) and “Unbreakable” (about David Dunn who gets superhero abilities after surviving a train crash) in “Glass”.

The awaited sequel to “Unbreakable” and “Split” stars Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy and Sarah Paulson. Disney India is releasing the film in India. It will open on January 18.

Shyamalan points that “Unbreakable” (released in 2000) and “Split” (which opened in 2016) weren’t meant to be separate movies.

“It has always been one story. ‘Split’ was in the original outline of ‘Unbreakable’. But when I was outlining it, it felt way too complicated.

“When you put somebody in jeopardy like the girls in ‘Split’, there is a ticking clock and pressure that starts and you are unable to do character work once that clock starts. When you have two storylines — one is about a man who survives a train wreck and becomes a superhero and another is a bunch of girls getting abducted by person — the character study diminish. The audience doesn’t want to do anything and just save the girls.

“So, I pulled out ‘Split’ out of ‘Unbreakable’,” he said, adding that “Unbreakable” was perceived as a non-commercial thing to make a movie at the time of release. (IANS)

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