Shyamalan struggling to regain his voice – and failing (Column: Bollywood Spotlight)

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Once, not too long ago, Manoj Shayamalan was regarded as the voice of the chill kingdom in America. As an Indian, I felt very proud of him when “The Sixth Sense” in 1999 was hailed as a pioneering shiver-giver. It was a courageous spine-chiller which spawned many rip-offs and imitations, some of them sadly emerging from Shyamalan’s own tired repertoire.

Recent films by Shyamalan have been disturbingly close to duds. One of them, “The Visit”, even had a climax apparently ripped-off from Ram Gopal Varma’s “Kaun”.

Though his last film “Split” had a certain amount of thrill value inherent in the actor’s multiple-disorder act, I am afraid after watching “Glass”, Shyamalan’s latest vapid homage to supernaturalism, I have to declare him to be the Ram Gopal Varma of American cinema.

Both Shyamalan and Varma continue to obstinately churn out films even though it’s way past the bedtime for their career. But who will tell them that the best is over and it’s time to hang up the boots? “Glass” is an appallingly shoddy work . The glimmer of hope I had gleaned from the shimmering gore in “Split” is now quite unambiguously dimmed. RIP.

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“Glass” has three discernibly traumatised heroes who believe they are super-heroes. You know, like Superman, Batman, Avengers and what-have-you. No one believes them. And we can’t blame the skeptics for doubting the protagonists’ super-hero powers, They have quite clearly seen better days. Just like the director.

Three tired delusional men played by actors trying desperately to breathe life into their catatonic characters, and trying to go by the director’s jaded convictions – losing battle fought with vivacity, no doubt.

Watching the three gifted actors grappling with the slippery plot, I felt I was looking at three kids holding on to the side of a tricky ride in an amusement park – a park that is no longer amusing to anyone. James McAvoy, with his 23 (or is it 24?) personalities, is particularly annoying. He plays the multiple-disordered character with the lipsmacking relish of a newcomer auditioning for a role in a new Ram Gopal Varma flick.

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Weirdly, McAvoy is given a sympathetic shoulder, played by the very young Anya Taylor-Joy with a tragic grandeur that this film doesn’t deserve. She is clearly besotted by McAvoy’s multiple circus – and perhaps more entertained by it than we could ever be.

SamuelA L. Jackson and Bruce Willis are the other two distraught wannabe superheroes. All three are locked up in a mental institution which has only one doctor, played by Sarah Paulson. Paulson, God bless her tenacity, tries hard to look committed and impassioned. But all I really saw on her face was an anguished helpless. “What the hell am I doing here”, Paulson seemed to scream as the three weirdos made good their escape. The audience awaited theirs.

The question that came to my mind after watching “Glass” was: Why do filmmakers insist on continuing with their careers long after their creativity has dried up? The tireless Dev Anand continued to churn out films long after his decline into mediocrity. The ludicrous quality of his ‘films’ in the twilight of his life were the best kept secret in Bollywood.

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What filmmakers need is a reality check. Somone or some elements willing to tell them off even at the risk of losing their prominence in the once-brilliant artiste’s life. If that knock on the knuckle is not provided, we will continue to have Pahlaj Nihalani and Prakash Jha producing “Rangeela Raja” and “Fraud Saiyyan”.

Critics are also to blame for encouraging mediocrity in erstwhile talented filmmakers. Every time Vishal Bhardwaj comes up with a new abomination, his faithful followers from the critics’ clique go “Wah Wah, kya baat hai”. When they actually mean is “Oh Oh kya blot hai”!

How will Shymalan ever know he is slipping off the wall when no one tells him?

(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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