The Night Manager would not have happened if Shailendra Rungta did not fanboy so hard over Shaan Sengupta, and all this because he conducted himself a certain way. We don’t blame him, though, because it is something to be in the vicinity of Aditya Roy Kapoor. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Anil Kapoor is the life of the show, him and Saswata Chatterjee, though the latter did not get as much screen time as he should have. There was a certain menace that he brought with him, the kind that showed no mercy and always knew what was going on. It was sad that he was pushed away in the latter part of the show, and that reminds us that The Night Manager should never have been released in two parts. There was literally no point to it. It was not a bad watch. In fact, despite its dated treatment of the story and characters, we would say that its easy quality and dedicated cast meant that we stayed interested in the narrative.
But by splitting The Night Manager into Part 1 and Part 2, the makers did not allow us to take the story seriously, which is not the ideal treatment of a show or a movie of this genre. The series never offered much intrigue, to begin with. The only factor was that Shaan’s cover should not be blown, and the singular threat to it was taken care of towards the end of Part 1. Therefore, we were not left with inexplicable questions that would have us biting our nails for Part 2, considering that the story is fairly predictable. Please remember that we are not calling the story itself bad, but the decision to release it in two parts makes it terrible. The reason must have been to sustain the hype around it and bring in the numbers for the OTT platform. It is sad that a good story takes a backseat to marketing and the popularity of actors.
This observation makes us think of Aditya Roy Kapoor and how he never seems to give anything his 100%. He can never really let go of himself, and it shows more in Part 2 than it did in Part 1. Shaan Sengupta is supposed to be an ex-Navy man who takes up a job as a night manager to escape the nightmares brought on by his past. One of his ex-comrades even says that he was quite crazy with the way he took risks. We believe we got a glimpse of it when he put everything at stake to continue with the mission or when he finally got revenge for the girl whose life he could not save. But the point to remember is that we saw it because of the writing of the story and not because of how the actor executed it. He was flawless when he was the night manager. The grace and charm were intact, as Brijpal says. Shaan Sengupta also looked the part of an ex-army man, but he did not sound like it. The authority in his voice felt uncomfortable, and his eyes lacked the madness that one would expect from someone who was doing what he was doing. That unhinged quality was very important to do justice to his character, and Aditya Roy Kapoor, as much as we loved looking at him, failed to bring that to the table.
On the other hand, Anil Kapoor, who was more than capable of being absolutely menacing, was just not written that part in his character. We knew he was a bad man because he traded in arms and was terrible towards Kaveri, but his evilness was mostly off-screen, and that was dissatisfying. We never understood his equation with his son or even the extent to which Kaveri was beholden to him. Did he kidnap her, or did she go with him for his money? He had no problem paying for her child, but it is unbelievable that she had no idea what he did as a business.
Talking about Kaveri makes us think about how India still has a long way to go before we can write decent parts for women, whether in the action thriller genre or otherwise. Be it Deepika Padukone in Pathaan, Vani Kapoor in Shamshera, or Shobhita Dhulipala in The Night Manager, these are examples of female characters who are supposedly strong and independent but mostly act as arm candy to the male protagonist. It’s at the point where we feel like the unreasonable parties for expecting anything different.
The fact is that the actors were the strong suit of The Night Manager, yet the script failed to make the best possible use of them. Storywise, it is just another series on an OTT platform that seems to have taken its audience for granted by giving us a remake of a show that was popular more than half a decade ago. It has been assumed that people’s sensibilities must still be stuck in time in this particular geography, and there is nothing more insulting than that. This sanction of mediocrity through remakes is proof of how much the audience’s intelligence is undermined, and we are getting tired of that. There were so many ways to make this series a little more up-to-date. The least they could have done was introduce some more troubles in Shaan’s way to spice things up a little. Kaveri could have been something more than just a pawn being pushed around powerful men, and Shelly could have shown a bit more of his bloodthirsty and amoral side. These are the absolute basics that would have made The Night Manager a lot more interesting.
What would have been absolutely radical was if Shaan Sengupta was a woman, say Shanaya Sengupta. Women are capable of running away from traumatic pasts without turning into sex objects. How she dealt with the misogyny in her job—the respectable one and the one in Shelly’s syndicate—while trying to fulfill her motive would have made for some interesting TV. We are not suggesting her as a love interest for Shelly or someone else by way of a honey trap. We are saying that the way Shelly saw and liked Shaan for his capabilities and demeanor, he should have been impressed by the professional capabilities of our hypothetical Shanaya Sengupta. After all, Shelly was a progressive villain, as we saw in his dealings with Brij. But Shanaya Sengupta would have been too radical and interesting for the world. Therefore, we are stuck with another cookie-cutter show that deluded itself into thinking it was providing us with top-notch entertainment. However, at the end of it all, we will continue to say that The Night Manager was decent, and that is why we are not complaining as much as we could have. It is worth a watch simply by virtue of being a treat for the eyes, and it is memorable in that regard.