The Indian adaptation of The Night Manager is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s peppered with the right amount of intrigue and suspense to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Aditya Roy Kapur’s relentless brooding in his quest to find justice and Anil Kapoor’s quiet villainy all tie together in this espionage thriller.
Yet, one can’t help but miss the British original show of the same name which starred Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie in lead roles. The mini-series borrowed its sleek style is James-Bond-esque – old-fashioned but also keeping up with the times.
Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston) is confident, calm, self-deprecating and unbelievably attractive. In the Indian adaptation, Shaan Sengupta (Kapur) is simmering with anger, one-tonal and also exceptionally handsome.
The portrayal of the same role is different, not in kind but in degree. Tom honed the character – he has an understated charm that helped him become the sauve spy. He seamlessly gets involved in Richard's (Laurie) illegal arms business while Kapur, comparatively, falters at convincing us that he truly belongs in an exotic beach mansion with these dangerous arms dealers.
Anil Kapoor’s Shelly Rungta, on the other hand, makes the character his own. He skillfully sinks his teeth into the world that was built in the purview of the Indian context. Every time he is on screen – the audience is bound to forget about the British original. And both the actors – Laurie and Kapoor – hold their own.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Sobhita Dhulipala’s Kaveri – Shaan’s future love interest. But that’s certainly not because Elizabeth Debicki is the better actor. Yet Debicki’s Jed does have the upper hand when it comes to the writing.
In comparison, Kaveri mostly jumps into the pool and looks stunning – nothing more and nothing less. Jed certainly added a bit of oomph (for lack of a better word) from the get-go.
Even when she didn't have much to do, she was very aware of what affect she had on people - that made her every move even more alluring. Kaveri, at least in the first four episodes, doesn't command that kind of attention.
Another massive letdown is Saswata Chatterjee’s, Brij Pal. The writing attempts to be dangerously lecherous to give him an air of threat but it mostly resorts to stereotypes to do so. And although one can recall Tom Hollander’s portrayal of the same role – the writing wasn’t quite so gimmicky in his case.
The Indian context fits right into the quietly menacing world that The Night Manager attempts to build. Even if the officer (Tillotama Shome) spearheading the entire mission is only overtly competent – her actions and decisions seem more than questionable – in a way, that can only happen in an Indian show.
But all things considered, even if the Indian adaptation may lack the sophisticated, suave charm of the British original it does seem to match up to its potential. And with four more episodes releasing sometime in June, only time can tell if they managed to sieve through its bad writing and added the much-needed depth to some of the most crucial characters.