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Home > India > Movies > Interviews

The Rediff Interview

When SRK made Night emotional

Prem Panicker | June 11, 2008

Just a day left before M Night Shyamalan's The Happening hits screens [on June 13] worldwide. The man who loves scaring people in the past with the 1999 blockbuster The Sixth Sense, also loves to talk about his films. On the eve of the release, Night speaks Indian cinema and the actor with the most potential in Hollywood. Excerpts:

Also Read:  Shyamalan's scary idea of a movie

On using Indian actors in his films

Of course I would, if the casting was correct -- but not as an agenda. I would never cast anybody as an agenda. If I could find the right balance, it would be cool. I've talked about it a bunch of times, whether it is feasible to bring in some of the stars from India, cast them in some roles. I have a difficult time casting any actor with an accent, if I am not using that accent. I've done it before, where I've asked a British actor to do an American accent, and I find it very constraining as a director. The actor in such situations tends to lose some of his arsenal, his skills; he is so busy getting the accent right he reduces the bandwidth he has for performing by 10 per cent or 20 per cent. Or he exaggerates the accent a hair too much in trying to hold on to it, and I have a tough time with all of that, so that is one of the reasons I would hesitate -- it is difficult for me, whether it is a Spanish actress or a British or even Indian actor.

A still from ETOn prominent role for children in his movies

I think that is [Steven] Spielberg's fault. I was 10 and 11 when he made all those amazing movies, ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders [of the Lost Ark]. And they are all about that 10 to 12 age group. So a lot of my movies are about that, about how you've lost that belief in magic you had at that age, or you are desperately trying to convince adults of that magic. Like even in Unbreakable, where the boy is trying to tell his father he is a superhero, way before the father believes it himself.

On Indian cinema and its place in the world

I've gotten more and more interested in Indian cinema. My wife [Bhavna] is obsessed by it, and she keeps me abreast of all the new things. I think it is a very powerful art form. I find it very powerful, that heightened vocabulary --  the push-in [close up] on a character, then another push-in and another push-in and the music is going into overdrive, and the character is telling the wife get out of my house, and she is screaming, and running out of the house, and this heightened thing, it's powerful. At first you giggle when you start to watch it but then, you get acclimated to that vocabulary and you start feeling the same sort of heightened emotions.

Also Read: When Shyamalan became 'Night'

I was telling Tom Rothman, the chairman of Fox, that Indian cinema reminds me about old-school storytelling. We keep getting more and more subtle about our film making, and you feel it has been reduced to a very delicate process. It's like in Shakespeare -- they were making big bold moves in the plot and big, bold acting. And the people, a lot of them were not really educated, and were leading miserable lives, and they came in and paid their pennies and they were taken away by the storytelling. Those stories have lasted 500 years, and Indian cinema has a lot of those things in it -- and so I was telling the chairman that we might be getting too smart for ourselves, we should remember what it felt like to be swept away. So yeah, I've actually been thinking about it a whole bunch even with regard to my own work.

A still from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi GhamIt's kind of like if I was a chef, the first thing I make, everyone likes it. But as I learn more and more, and begin tasting flavours you cannot even sense, I start getting subtle in what flavours I will use and pretty soon, if I made a dish and gave it to the man on the street he would go blech, this stuff is so bland, and I would go what are you talking about, it is very rarefied, it has seven spices, blah blah.

But the point is, if it is so subtle you cannot taste it, then the point is lost. You don't want to get to that place where your voice is too rarefied. It is something I have been thinking about, constantly going back and touching universal cinema, asking myself why is it that Indian cinema is so popular, why has it lasted so long, what are they doing right? It reminds me of the old musicals; it reminds me of the movies Hollywood used to do.

Indian actor with the most potential in Hollywood

I would be a terrible person to answer that, I just don't know enough. I've seen about three movies all the way through. What's that guy's name, we were talking about him at lunch, Shah Rukh Khan [Images] -- yeah, I think all three movies had him in them. There was this thing, he is touching her in the rain, what was the name of that movie, Kabhi something... [UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala helpfully supplies Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham]... right, that one; that was kind of cool, I got pretty emotional during that one. And I remember there was an old one, it was supposed to be very salacious at the time, wait, Shivam something? [Satyam [Get Quote] Shivam Sundaram, supplies the ever helpful Screwvala]� right, that one right there, that was smokin'! I don't remember the name of the third one -- wait, Devdas, there you go.