M. Night Shyamalan's Messages From His Mom Are My Ideal Indian Representation In Hollywood

Recently, I half-jokingly tweeted that the one-two punch of M. Night Shyamalan's Old and the Dev Patel-starring The Green Knight had officially kicked off the start of "Brown Boy Summer." Think of it as the unholy mix between Seinfeld's "The Summer of George" and the Megan Thee Stallion song, but for South Asian representation in film! I may have been a bit too hasty with that tweet, however, because I simply did not account for Shyamalan's mother. Shyamalan has been using his Twitter feed lately to post a couple of hilarious video messages co-starring himself and the Shyamalan matriarch, Jayalakshmi, as she implores the masses to go out and see her son's movie.

Folks, believe me when I say I've rarely felt more represented than I do with these clips. Check out the first one below, which features his mom dressed to the nines in her traditional sari (also spelled saree) and hilariously admitting that, well, she hasn't actually watched Old yet!

On the face of it, yes, this is little more than a fun PR clip just waiting to go viral. But there's also something wholesome, unconditional, and incredibly culturally-specific about the way Shyamalan's mother proudly trumpets her son's achievements. The next clip goes even further, with the added bonus of showing off just how much (or how little) film expertise she possesses.

Keep in mind, folks: she's a doctor, not a filmmaker. I say we can give her a pass on this one.

Representation, Shyamalan, and Me

In all seriousness, that second video was the one that reminded me of just how paltry Indian representation has been throughout Hollywood in recent years. Of what little there is to go around, it usually takes the form of Very Important Cinema™ like 2016's Lion. It's an incredible and profoundly moving film, to be clear, but there's also a certain temptation prevalent among decision-makers to only ever focus on those (admittedly grueling) kinds of cultural experiences at the expense of all others. Questions about cultural identity and a sense of being pulled between two different homes are important, personally affecting topics to explore...but we can be more than that, too.

So when I saw these videos pop up on my Twitter feed, what struck me was just how refreshing it is for these sorts of mundane interactions between an Indian mother and her son to get a spotlight as well. And it's worth noting that we wouldn't see this at all if it weren't for Shyamalan promoting his latest film, which was far from a sure thing given his career trajectory.

Nobody is required to like every M. Night Shyamalan movie, of course, but there is undeniable power in seeing a skilled and knowledgeable filmmaker — one who looks very much like myself and who's from the exact same Indian state my own family hails from — successfully navigate an industry that tends to be hostile to anyone who looks the way we do. That's why current filmmakers like Shyamalan and Aneesh Chaganty mean so much. We're not likely to see eye-to-eye on all the same movies, but hopefully we can agree on that at the very least!