The Night Manager, the famous spy thriller novel, has so far had two adaptations. The British show, adapted for the screen by David Farr and directed by Sussane Bier, took the audience through the world of arms deals, civil unrest, and the politics of the Middle East and North Africa and how British intelligence was indirectly involved in them. In the Hindi adaptation, created by Sandeep Modi and written by Shridhar Raghavan, the setting was altered to reflect the politics of the Indian sub-continent and how intelligence messes with the domestic matters of neighboring countries for the national interest.
What makes both shows similar and unique is the treatment of the spy thriller, where a regular hotel employee or ex-military officer turns into an intelligence agent for his country. The protagonist wants to bring down the man who is responsible for the murder of a woman he was trying to save from the mess created by her husband, who happens to be a tiny dot in the big network of illegal arms dealers. Loads of weapons worth millions are supplied to both sides of a war across the world and is carried out by bigwigs like Richard Roper in the English adaptation and Shailendra Rungta in the Hindi one.
There is a sense of sadness and melancholy right from the beginning of the show—a sinister feeling that the wrong person would be implicated for a crime they’ve not committed. The death of the informant right in the beginning set the tone of the show, as it triggered the leads, Jonathan Pine and Shaan Sengupta, in their respective adaptations, to go to help their intelligence officials. Their military background and hospitality skills allow them to be calm and patient with the situation, knowing that, eventually, the target will fall into their hands. This is one of the many similarities we have seen in both adaptations. The Hindi makers thankfully stuck to what we had seen in the British show, which took some liberties with the characters from the original novel.
Shailendra aka Shelly, in the Hindi version, is flamboyant and flashy with his clothes and his demeanor towards his wife. This could be the approach taken by the actor Anil Kapoor, who added his own element to his character. He has a terrifying yet calm demeanor. Hugh Laurie, as Richard Roper, on the other hand, had a rather subtle take on the character. Hugh Laurie’s low-key approach is because of the profession the character is leading, where he must remain understated.
Some characters are inherently different but serve the same purpose in both versions, which is to be the right-hand man of the main guy and protect their respective paramours. Corky, in the British adaptation, had only one job, which was to be on Richard’s side at all times without having been asked, and he ended up paying with his life for showing loyalty by the end. Meanwhile, in the Hindi version, we have Brij Pal, who is portrayed as an openly gay man. His character, too, faced the same fate, and both actors brought in their charm and ruthlessness, which were required to pull off their roles.
The different path taken by the makers of the Hindi version is in regard to Shaan seemingly going rogue and accompanying Shelly to another oil-rich nation to demonstrate his weapons to his clients from Myanmar. This was again brought up to talk about subcontinental politics and how Shelly had the blessing of Indian intelligence to promote civil unrest overseas. Shelly also managed to bring all the possible moles he suspected, including his wife Kaveri and his right-hand man Brij, to the middle of the desert. In the British adaptation Richard was on the Turkey-Syria border, for the demonstration of the weapons to his only client. Richard Roper also did not meet with another prospective buyer of the weapons as Shelly did in the Hindi version to showcase how the latter had become too money-minded and powerful for his good and might well betray his country for the sake of it. This was probably added as an extra character trait for Shelly to showcase him as a full-blown villain. This allowed the Indian audience to understand the perspective and added the drama needed to make the show more appealing to the Hindi-speaking audience.
The final reveal of Roper and Shelly in the respective adaptations was slightly different from each other. While Shaan bombed the entire factory and destroyed the weapons, Jonathan destroyed the trucks carrying the weapons. There was a difference in the execution, maybe showcasing different methods of putting forward one scene with the same intent. This came across as a smart move by the Hindi makers to make sure their version does not look like a scene-by-scene copy of the British Night Manager.
Even Lipika’s boss in the Hindi adaptation changed his mind conveniently because he understood Shelly could turn against India for money, and that’s why he approved his arrest as a way to prove his patriotism and save himself from humiliation if the news of Shelly’s deal with R&AW was ever leaked. In the English adaptation, we get to see Angela Burr threatening to reveal her boss Dromgoole’s involvement with Roper if he attempts to help him. There is no patriotism angle added here because, inherently, human beings gravitate towards places that give them more dignity in the form of monetary gains. The ending had to be the same, where the men with whom the arms deal went down the drain take the big man with them. It is implied that they would deal with him in their way, as there won’t be a trial or imprisonment in their case. The antagonist would be executed.
The Hindi adaptation spent a lot of time talking about Kaveri and her son in India, but in the end, there was no conclusion to her arc. Even if she was saved by Shaan in the end, there was no talk about whether they got back together or not or did she go in pursuit of her son and hopefully bring him back into her life. A definite conclusion could have been good, just like they did in the British show. Jed was shown to have gone to America to meet her son, and there is an indication of her reconciliation with Jonathan.
Both adaptations of the same novel had plenty of similarities and differences to match the sensitivities of the target audience, and one common factor of this show was engagement. It kept the audience hooked till the end, and it never let down when it came to the narrative aspect. The Night Manager in Hindi and the British adaptations, despite their flaws, are good watches.