Meet Manoj Nelliattu "SHAH-ma-lawn ...better known as M Night, the Indian American Scriptwriter -Director, is a guy with an uncanny Sixth Sense which has helped him to break into the Unbreakable. With Alfred Hitchcock as his inspiration and 'twist in a tale' in his genre, he's hit all the right Signs in his first ever Sci fi only by following his idol Steven Spielberg.
Haling from The Village of Pondicherry, India, and since long nursing the film making dream, M Night has today made it real big in US and created a recognizable niche in Hollywood for himself. His last film Lady in the water may not have done well with the critics but his attitude and motto to always be courageous and original can be seen with his latest venture, as he ties up with UTV and Ronnie Screwaala for his forthcoming film
What made you go for an Indian Production house for your next project?
I always had a desire of mine to do something in India. My first movie after college was also shot in India. And I wanted to stay connected to India not only by my films but also career wise. Whenever I do any new film of think of a new script I always ponder if we can do the opening sequence in India or if we can do the premier in India. This collaboration with UTV is a perfect opportunity to connect well with India. I have a huge fan base in other countries like Italy and France who keep telling me how amazing The Village was and applaud my work. I want to cultivate a relationship with Indian people.
How has your experience of working with International studios been?
I have been working with diverse studios and each of them has been special with regards to the film. Like Warner brothers are best for typically boy oriented movies where as Fox is more into Sci Fi and Global movies. While working with these studios there is a complete independent spirit that is seen between us.
How did the association with Ronnie Screwvala happen?
Ronnie is someone who wants success for everyone. His movies have been favorites of my children. After hearing about Ronnie from my agents I had called him to Philadelphia to spend a day with me. While he was here for a meeting I went to meet him like a family person with my two small girls and wife over a brunch. We meet more like family then like businessmen.
You spoke about your Indian connection. Are you casting Indian actors in this movie?
I always try to cast ethnically diverse people in my movies. So for example The Village was a different movie and therefore it was difficult to cast someone of Indian origin in that movie, as I need to keep in mind my global perspective. As my movies are watched by global audience and they need to relate with the character. But if hopefully I find a good place, I shall definitely do that.
What are the advantages of co producing according to you?
Choosing the partner I chose, I can really say that Ronnie and I get to own the movie. Also in this case, the risk is half in co-production for the studio as a result they invest into 20 movies thereby reducing the risk if the movie fails to make it commercially.
What is the storyline for this movie?
It is paranoia movie for 90 minutes with its link based in 1960's, something innocuous that will make you wonder about what will happen ahead. It is related to a family in apocalyptic event, invasion of body snatchers. Well that's the template with heavy suspense and thriller.
You are known as the next Spielberg. Is it a motivation factor for you?
I know Steven and he has been very supportive. But when I think who I am, I relate best with a writer who closes his doors and writes his story. I am a director who adapts screen plays. And for that matter I relate best with Agatha Christie, someone who is making more and more stories. Steven is my hero and also one who got me in movies. My pattern of movies may be repeated but I don't make movies for money. But after a movie opens, it is suffocated by its brothers and sisters. It's only after some time that it is allowed to meet its brothers and sisters.
There is a rising period for any movie and therefore each decision that you make is very important from the movie's commercial success.
Which is you favorite India movie.
Well, I don't really watch too much of Hindi movies, though my wife watches them.
Important aspects that you kept in your mind while writing this script
Well the story is global and locations are global. In a crude way it is a big movie that happens and will do well in India and outside US. I do tend to ask people about what they like and what they would want to watch.
How did Fox Studios work out?
Well I told them that they need to finance the movie. You see there is a balancing act that you need to do when you are working with the studios. If you don't tell them your terms then they will tell you their terms, at the same time you need to make them feel that it is their baby. So that they ensure that the movies reaches the best theatres and is well distributed across also in terms of marketing.