‘Praying with Anger’: the first Shyamalan that nobody saw

M. Night Shyamalan directed and starred in ‘Praying with Anger’.

The director of ‘The sixth sense’ debuted with an autobiographical film in which the protagonist, played by the director himself, traveled to India in search of his roots


M. Night Shyamalan (Pondycherry, India, August 6, 1970) has had a passion for cinema since childhood. With a few months he moved with his family to the United States, growing up in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. At the age of eight, he was given a Super-8 camera and from this fact arose his passion for making films imitating his hero of that time, Steven Spielberg. He studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. At 17, he had already made 45 home movies.

To make his directorial debut, he thought about recreating what was his first trip to India in search of his roots. The film was titled ‘Praying with Anger’ and is shot in India. Shyamalan himself, in addition to making his directing debut, writes the script, produces it and stars in it. Joining him are Mike Muthu, Richa Ahuja, Sushma Ahuja, Christabal Howje and Arun Balachandran, all Indian performers.

The film, in which almost everything is autobiographical, follows Dev Raman (M. Night Shyamalan), an American-born Hindu who is sent to India as part of a university student exchange program. Dev is reluctant to go, but her mother, whom she adores, insists. Friendless and alone, on the other side of the world, Dev experiences a culture shock: He may look like an Indian, but it is quickly and vividly shown that appearances matter little, and it will take more than language and a lack of will, to win. acceptance and respect.

Amid his initial tribulations, Dev’s only friend is Sunjay (Mike Muthu), his guide and mentor, whose advice he trusts. However, there are times when he chooses to be stubborn and ignore Sunjay (on things like approaching a pretty girl or passively accepting teasing from older students). Unsurprisingly, such incidents cause embarrassment, or worse. But Dev also discovers while there, that her cold and distant father, now deceased, had a deep and calm affection for her. Dev realizes that she can pray to the deities of a Hindu pantheon in almost any emotional state except indifference. As he explores his past and sees the lack of communication between the two cultures, Dev is overwhelmed and can only pray in anger.

Although films about culture clashes are common, Shyamalan presents a new perspective on the subject by showing a young man with Indian roots who travels to a country he has never known and whose references are only the conversations of his parents. The most interesting is when Dev explores the traditions of her ancestors and how she should adapt to the traditions of the country. All this with various subplots such as a necessary tragic love story, the girl who opposes the centennial caste system, the outsider who comes to be respected by those who previously despised her and, of course, the coming-of-age story. And all this also using stock images.

‘Praying with Anger’.

The film is presented on September 12, 1992 at the Toronto Film Festival, and later at an American Film Institute Festival, where it receives an award for American debut operas. However, the film is not distributed almost anywhere. It takes a year to arrive in New York, on September 15, 1993 and goes completely unnoticed. Shyamalan’s commercial and critical takeoff did not occur until his third film, ‘The Sixth Sense’, which he also produces, which was the second highest grossing film in 1999, achieving six Oscar nominations, including for best director and for the best script.

The success of ‘The Sixth Sense’ sparked a relative interest in ‘Praying with Anger’, which could be reviewed at film festivals. In Spain, where it was never released, it has been seen on different streaming platforms.


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