John le Carré’s novel The Night Manager was published in 1993. It revolved around an undercover operation designed to overthrow an illegal international arms dealer. A hotel’s night manager in a hotel is recruited by the secret service to work as a spy and assist in the operation. In 2016, the BBC televised a six-part serialisation of the novel. It starred Hugh Laurie as the crime lord and Tom Hiddleston as the night manager. Now there's an Indian adaptation of the crime and romance drama, with Anil Kapoor headlining as businessman Shelly Rungta and Aditya Roy Kapur as Shaan Sengupta, the night manager.
Under the stewardship of writer and director Sandeep Modi, the Disney+ Hotstar show, co-directed by Priyanka Ghosh, blends homegrown preoccupations, politics and emotions into the original story. The first four episodes set up the espionage drama, but The Night Manager is equally a love story, which is set to unfold when the remaining episodes drop in June 2023.
The series opens in Bangladesh, where night manager Shaan gets enmeshed in a complicated operation. His instinct and skills catch the eye of intelligence operative Lipika (Tillotama Shome), who recruits him to infiltrate Shelly’s inner circle and blow up his secret arms trade from the inside out. To achieve this, Shaan has to face challenges including an alternate ID, moving countries and passing tests set by Shelly’s right hand, the mercurial Brij (Saswata Chatterjee). Shaan also finds himself attracted to Shelly’s girlfriend Kaveri (Sobhita Dhulipala), who appears to be harbouring a secret of her own.
Besides some screenplay shifts in the first episode, and a gentler build up to the love story, The Night Manager is a fairly faithful adaptation that catches the beats of the original. What sets this version apart is the cast. Although Shelly is undoubtedly the villain of the piece, Anil Kapoor plays him with gentlemanly finesse. He loves being the kingpin but he’s also forgiving and caring towards those faithful to him but you know there’s a bloody price to pay if you cross him.
Aditya Roy Kapur has finally landed a part that suits his onscreen persona. Stoic, unyielding, with flashes of warmth and charisma, switching effortlessly between infiltration and infatuation, motive and commitment. He spars well with Kapoor and Chatterjee, who sprinkles Brij with dollops of spice. Shome is lively as the determined and dedicated intelligence officer fending off resistance from her superiors. In contrast, Dhulipala is fairly somnolent, with her story still waiting to unfold in upcoming, as yet unreleased episodes.
Those familiar with the BBC's The Night Manager should find a few plot variations (writers Modi and Sridhar Raghavan) and the reinterpretation of central characters interesting. A well-adapted, well-cast show that captures a glossy, luxuriant world without making it seem toweringly inaccessible, it would be more intriguing for those unacquainted with John le Carré’s story or Susanne Bier’s British serial.