The Night Manager is all about men and their ego trips, but there are strong female characters that light up the show. The men are seen charging towards the goal of seeking power; what they do not see is that the women are the ones who make the major decisions and pave the way to deciding the fate of the men they are targeting. Only in the last decade have we seen the emergence of women as characters with layers and arcs in the Hindi cinema space. Women are no longer arm candy. In The Night Manager, we get to see them fight and flourish while the others just unfortunately perish.
The Indian version of The Night Manager begins with Safina Kidwai, an underage girl who is on the lookout to get out of a marriage that was forced on her. She is staying at a 5-star hotel in Dhaka, but she could not be feeling more claustrophobic thanks to her overwhelming monster of a husband, Freddie Rehman. It is clear from this setup that Freddie, no matter how rich and powerful he is, the man is a pedophile, and he loves to control the woman, and he might have done that to many other young women in the past. Safina was a smart girl who caught on to what Freddie was up to. She understood the line of business he was in, and she had to walk on eggshells just to be able to leak information about his link to the illegal arms trading business.
Her approach to contacting Shaan Sengupta turned out to be right and wrong at the same time because her information reached the R&AW desk in Delhi, which alarmed them about Shailendra Rungta, the man the intelligence agency had been on the lookout for a while. Her character comes across as someone concerned about many things; first and foremost would be her well-being because she wants to get out of this marriage, and as an extension of that, it is implied that Freddie must be forcing himself on her as well. She had the ammunition to bring down Freddie, which triggered Shaan from the hotel and Lipika from R&AW to make plans to extract her as soon as possible.
Shaan and Safina, in their brief meeting, shared a brother-sister relationship where he felt protective of her. Safina, too, felt that Shaan would be able to help her out of this tragic life of hers. But Safina’s life had an expiration date because she’d dared to overstep the line, as per Freddie, and she was murdered for being the informer. It is assumed that it was Shelly who found out from R&AW itself about her being the mole that would lead to Freddie and Shelly’s downfall. They had to get rid of her, and thus began Shaan’s quest to hunt Shelly and make sure he paid for his crimes. Safina only wanted a life she could call her own, but fate had other plans.
Lipika Saikia Rao
Lipika Rao was one of the agents with the R&AW desk who had been behind Shailendra Rungta for decades, and she had described to her boss why she wanted Shelly behind bars. She was a witness to the brute man that he was, and she was convinced that he had more blood on his hands than any man should. Lipika Rao, who seems to come from a middle-class family, is supported by a helpful spouse who understands the demands of her job. Lipika comes across as a sternly determined woman who is solely obsessed with Shelly and the downfall of his empire. It was also interesting to watch her on the personal front, where she did not let anyone judge the fact that her husband was the one who carried out the household chores while she was busy with her work. Her work was her identity, and she loved what she did for her country. There is a sense of relief and patriotism that she evokes in herself when she can get hold of people like Shelly.
She might come across as someone who believes in evil and good, the black and the white, which makes her plant Shaan into Shelly’s inner circle to understand his pattern, movements, and documents that could prove his culpability. Lipika demands attention from Shaan, and all her team members make sure to follow her orders. Shaan, on the other hand, respects her and goes the long route of catching Shelly in the act instead of just assassinating him. She probably makes him understand there is more joy in seeing Shelly rot behind bars than in plainly killing him in cold blood.
Lipika, despite all she came to know of what Shelly was doing for R&AW as a part of a discreet deal, knew he would become a monster they would not be able to control, and her words came out to be true. Shelly did not think twice before betraying the Indian intelligence, for he thought he was bigger than them at that point. Finally, Lipika arrests Shelly. How she was waiting for him in his room shows the power dynamics at that time had shifted, and she had all the information on him. Lipika was quick to bring down his plans, and she was probably the one who informed the terrorist outfit about his arrest. Lipika was the Queen who was solely responsible for pushing Shaan to go after him, and she finally got Shelly the ending he deserved.
Kaveri Dixit, the wife of Shailendra, aka Shelly Rungta, comes across as a trophy wife who knows what her husband is up to, and it is assumed from the beginning that she is with him only for the money and luxurious lifestyle she gets access to by being his wife. But as the story of the show moves ahead, the audience gets to see how she is a deeply affected woman who is constantly distressed over her secret. Kaveri has a son, but it is not revealed if it was from a marriage or a previous relationship. She is unable to bear the distance between herself and her child while she is spending a lot of time taking care of Shelly’s son, Taha. Her relationship with Taha is good as well, maybe because she sees her son in him, and she can bring out her motherly emotion.
Kaveri comes across as a lot more emotional than she leads us to believe. She fears the man she is married to, and somehow she knows he is a powerful figure who will not think twice before hurting her. Just like Safina, Kaveri here is also trudging through her life. But from a narrative standpoint, it is not easy to fathom the fact that she was not aware of his illegal arms-dealing business. It seemed like a convenient plotline. Shelly’s actual work is revealed to Kaveri by Shaan. She slowly understood the gravity of the matter about the man she was married to, as he was far more dangerous than she thought. She would have to exit the marriage in such a manner that it would not create any suspicion.
Kaveri’s state of mind is understandable as she falls for Shaan because she sees the sensitive side in him, and he is also able to see why she is stronger than she lets on, and it would be better if she leaves Shelly. Kaveri’s character might come across as someone who is waiting to be saved instead of making things work to help herself out. Just like Safina was charting her path to save herself, Kaveri sadly did not do that. Shaan’s guilt grows because of his inability to save Safina and it gets channeled toward helping Kaveri get out of the mess. Shelly, in his bid to save his empire, physically abuses Kaveri to understand her role in helping Shaan, but thankfully the ordeal is over before it can take a nasty turn. There was no love between Shelly and Kaveri. It was an unwritten deal between the two to be with each other because it served their purpose. The only problem with her story was her unfinished business regarding her son. The show did not touch on that. Kaveri deserved to be happy, and being next to her son would give her that.