The Shyamalan Sisters on Their Dad’s Influence: ‘He’s Just a Super Involved Parent’

In the Shyamalan household, the arts rule the roost. Whether it’s legendary filmmaker father M. Night, daughter Ishana, who’s followed in his footsteps, or her sister Saleka who’s branched off into music, creativity and collaboration are the keys to a happy home for this multi-talented brood. This summer, the whole family has reason to celebrate as Ishana’s directorial debut film “The Watchers” hit theaters this weekend and Night’s latest mystery, the concert-set “Trap,” starring Josh Hartnett and featuring songs and performances from Saleka, releases August 9. Speaking to The New York Times for a recent interview, the Shyamalan sisters addressed the lucky timing of their shared breakouts and their natural family dynamic.

“I feel like in some ways we’ve always done that, since we were growing up, experience things together,” said Saleka. “So it feels right even though it was unplanned.”

More from IndieWire

It’s clear their father puts an importance on sticking together and pursuing their dreams, but it’s difficult in an environment where the ire for nepo-babies is at a fever pitch. Nonetheless, Ishana and Saleka haven’t been stalled.

“It’s really about meeting that privilege and honoring that with as hard a work ethic as we can, by being as kind people as we can and holding ourselves to the highest standard possible,” Ishana said of balancing her identity and career. Adding later in regards to their father supporting their interests, Saleka said, “He’s just a super involved parent.”

Speaking with The New York Times as well, Night attributed his active involvement in seeing his daughters succeed as part of his sense of traditionalism.

“We’re a classic Asian Indian family, but maybe the difference slightly that’s interesting is rather than aiming it toward medicine, or engineering, or law — your only three options — we aimed toward the arts,” said Night. “Codifying a process is the difficult part because in those fields those steps are already predestined and laid out for you, whereas this is amorphous.”

Night may have known how to help Ishana get to where she wanted to go, but Saleka was a little more challenging. Skipping conservatory in favor of beginning to compose her own work, Saleka said her confidence towards music was daunting for her father.

“I think once he saw that I had passion for it in the same way that he had a passion for film,” Saleka said, “he understood it and was like, all right, I’m with you, let’s make this happen.”

Comparing their approaches to cinema, Ishana said, “He’s very grounded in his tone and his style, and I really enjoy pushing that a little and going maybe a little bit more experimental.”

As proud as he is of his daughters, the process of boosting their profiles and watching them put their work out into the world is a tough one for Night.

“As a dad you, don’t want them to get hurt ever,” he said. “So watching them push themselves to the limit and past it for both of these projects — it was hard.”

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.