The Night Manager Review: The adaptation allows Aditya Roy Kapur to be himself. That works to his advantage.
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Tillotama Shome
Director: Sandeep Modi
Rating: Two and a half stars (out of 5)
Trans-creating a well-regarded series in a new setting is fraught with risk.The Night Manager, written jointly by creator and director Sandeep Modi with Shridhar Raghavan, is another proof of that. The Disney+Hotstar show struggles to meet the high expectations set by the original show. The result is an average, if not entirely pointless, thriller.
Comparisons are admittedly odious, but when Aditya Roy Kapur steps into the shoes of Tom Hiddleston, it is hard not to look back at what the English actor had extracted from the titular role. In scope and substance, Kapur’s performance isn’t a patch on Hiddleston’s. But the adaptation allows him to be himself. That works to his advantage.
This iteration of The Night Manager caters clearly to a sensibility markedly different from the one that the BBC One thriller was aimed at. It is at best a serviceable adaptation. Missing are the neat directorial flourishes that the Oscar-winning Susanne Bier brought to bear upon her game.
Shaan Sengupta, a soldier-turned-hotelier is dragged out of a comfortable sinecure by disturbing events triggered by an illegal arms dealer and his ruthless cohorts. The villain masquerades as an agricultural equipment supplier and philanthropist. The hero is out to blow the lid off.
Going with the flow, the lead actor fleshes out an emotionally stricken and morally agitated man who does not exactly wear his heart on his sleeve. A toughened combatant who has had his share of setbacks in the line of duty, he isn’t outwardly perturbed by the machinations of his new foe.
With the aid of secret agent Lipika Saikia Rao (Tillotama Shome in the role that Olivia Colman made her own), Shaan sets out to bring down an evil business empire built on war, chaos and death. The two are swayed more by emotion than cold logic, neither of which is a shield against the slimeballs they are up against.
The suave baddie, played with flair by Anil Kapoor, is as bad as they come but he does not bare his fangs all that often. The veteran actor overshadows everyone else in The Night Manager pretty much like Hugh Laurie did in the BBC One show.
Laurie, one half of the well-known comedy double act Fry and Laurie (with Stephen Fry), was a surprise choice for the role of “the worst person in the world”. Kapoor, whose screen persona exudes warmth and chatty amiability, also ventures into uncharted territory here and thrives on the challenge that poses.
There is obviously going to be much more of the two adversaries as they square off in the next part of The Night Manager, due to land in our midst in June. The four episodes currently streaming cover about half the ground that the 2016 six-hour series adapted from a John Le Carre book did. Passages here do give the clear impression that this instalment is only setting the stage for an explosive finale.
The Night Manager, produced for the Indian market by Banijay Asia and The Ink Factory, has a sumptuous and varied visual palette. The action spans across multiple locations: Dhaka, Delhi, Shimla, Sri Lanka and other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Director of photography Benjamin Jasper (known in India for his work on Bang Bang and War) films the action in a way that heightens the atmospherics, which serve the purpose of shoring up the show when the narrative tends to flag.