Shyamalan to receive top India honor

Filmmaker offers peek at 'Happening,' 'Airbender'

NEW DELHI -- M. Night Shyamalan will receive one of India's highest civilian honors, the Padma Shri, from President Pratibha Patil at an official ceremony Friday in New Delhi.

"I usually stay away from awards, but this is an exception and indeed a very special honor for me," Shyamalan said at a news conference in Mumbai on Monday, hosted by UTV Motion Pictures. UTVMP is co-producer with 20th Century Fox on the director's upcoming release "The Happening," which bows worldwide June 13.

Shyamalan added that "Happening," starring Mark Wahlberg, was "the easiest movie I've done from start to finish. There was perfect symmetry with UTV, considering they have done projects with Fox in the past."

He confirmed that his next project is the big-screen version of the martial arts-influenced Nickelodeon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" for Paramount. "I always wanted to do a fantasy franchise like 'Harry Potter,' and 'Airbender' is perfect given it has elements of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy."

Born in Pondicherry, southern India, and raised in Philadelphia, Shyamalan shot his first feature here: 1992's "Praying With Anger."

When asked if he would consider an action or a comedy project, Shyamalan said: "If I made a comedy, people would judge it as a scary movie anyway! In that sense, 'Airbender' is going to be a wonderful moment because it can't be compared to my earlier films. But I love scary movies, and I will never leave them."