Manoj Shyamalan was born on 6 August 1970 in Mahé, Pondicherry, India, known professionally as M. Night Shyamalan, is an American screenwriter, film director, and producer known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots. He is also known for filming his movies (and staging his plots) in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was raised.
Most of Shyamalan’s commercially successful films were co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures film division.
In 2008, Shyamalan was awarded the Padma Shri by the government of India.
His father, Nelliate C. Shyamalan from Mahé. His mother, Jayalakshmi, speaks Tamil and is an obstetrician and gynecologist by profession. In the 1960s, after medical school (at the Jawaharlal Institute ofPostgraduate Medical Education & Research in Pondicherry) and the birth of their first child, Veena, his parents moved to the United States. His mother returned to India to spend the last five months of her pregnancy at her parents’ home in Chennai.
Shyamalan spent his first six weeks in Pondicherry, and then was raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. He attended the private Roman Catholic grammar school Waldron Mercy Academy, though he was a Hindu (they chose it for disciplinary reasons), followed by the Episcopal Academy, a private Episcopal high school located at the time in Merion, Pennsylvania. Shyamalan earnedthe New York University Merit Scholarship in 1988. Shyamalan is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan, graduating in 1992. It was while studying there that he adopted Night as his second name.
Shyamalan had an early desire to be a filmmaker when he was given a Super-8 camera at a young age. Though his father wanted him to follow in the family practice of medicine, his mother encouraged him to follow his passion. By the time he was 17 the Steven Spielberg fan had made 45 home movies. On each DVD release of his films (beginning with The Sixth Sense and with the exception of Lady in the Water), he has included a scene from one of these childhood movies which he feels represents his first attempt at the same kind of film.
Shyamalan made his first film, the semi-autobiographical drama Praying with Anger, while still a student at NYU, using money borrowed from family and friends. It was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 1992, and played commercially at one theater for a week in rural Woodstock, Illinois. When the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, Shyamalan was introduced by David Overbey who predicted that the world would see more of Shyamalan in the years to come. Praying with Anger has also been shown on Canadian television. Filmed in Chennai, it is his only film to be shot outside of Pennsylvania.
Shyamalan wrote and directed his second movie, Wide Awake, in 1995, though it was not released until 1998. His parents were the film’s associate producers. The drama dealt with a ten-year-old Catholic schoolboy (Joseph Cross) who, after the death of his grandfather (Robert Loggia), searches for God. The film’s supporting cast included Dana Delany and Denis Leary as the boy’s parents, as well as Julia Stiles, and Camryn Manheim. 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. Only in limited release, the film grossed $305,704 in theaters, against a $6 million budget.
That same year Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little with Greg Brooker.
Shyamalan gained international recognition when he wrote and directed 1999′s The Sixth Sense, which was a commercial success and later nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He followed The Sixth Sense by writing and directing Unbreakable, released in 2000, which received positive reviews. His 2002 film Signs, where he also played Ray Reddy, gained both critical and financial success. His next movie The Village (2004) received mixed reviews from the critics, but turned out to be afinancial success. His later fantasy film Lady in the Water (2006) performed worse critically and financially. The film The Happening (2008) was a financial success but also received negative reviews. In 2010, he directed The Last Airbender, based on the Nickelodeon TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Last Airbender (2010) received extremely negative reviews in the United States and won 5 Razzie Awards, but has gone on to make nearly $320 million internationally at the box office. He wrote the story for and produced his latest film, Devil (2010), but did not direct it. The film was not previewed by critics before its release, eventually receiving mixed reviews. Devil was not a blockbuster hit, but has become a commercial success relative to its budget.
Although Shyamalan has stated he is in the middle of directing his next thriller, it has been confirmed that his next film will be a science fiction epic titled After Earth, to star Jaden Smith. When asked about it in an interview, Shyamalan denied the idea of shooting it in 3D but stated he was planning something technically special.
In 1993, Shyamalan married psychologist Bhavna Vaswani, a fellow student whom he met at NYU and with whom he has two daughters. His family resides in Willistown, Pennsylvania near Shyamalan’s usual shooting site, Philadelphia. His production company, Blinding EdgePictures is located in Berwyn, PA.