‘Anil Kapoor is not a maut ka saudagar’

‘The world of arms dealers and war-mongers is still a reality of our lives.’

The Night Manager will see Anil Kapoor in a role he has probably never played before.

It’s a villain with a difference.

Directors Sandeep Modi and Priyanka Ghoshwho have adapted the original British series in a desi version starring Anil Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapur and Sobhita Dhulipala, tell Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh their conversation with Anil: “He used to tell me, ‘Sandeep, I have always been the most loved guy on screen. I do comedy. How are you looking at me as a villain?'”

The trailer of The Night Manager has received a thumbs up from the audience. How excited are you?

Sandeep Modi: It’s exciting, of course, but the true test is on February 17 (when it starts streaming).

The trailer is only a precursor to what’s going to come. So I’m really excited and nervous, as any film-maker who has given so much to bring a story to life.

Priyanka Ghosh: I think whenever your new work comes out, you are so nervous, with so many butterflies in your stomach, but, at the same time, it is going to be so gratifying to see your blood, sweat and hard work come alive.

I hope everybody enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.

There are also fans of the original British series who haven’t reacted that positively to the trailer. What would be your message to them?

Sandeep Modi: I think I haven’t seen people who have not reacted well. It comes as a surprise to me.

This is an ode to the original series, which anyone who has seen it will enjoy and who has not seen it will also enjoy.

We have done our take on it, and yet there are things from not just the show but the book as well.

Many people might not have read John le Carré’s book The Night Manager.

Priyanka Ghosh: The way Sandeep and Shridhar Raghavan adapted it… it was really exciting for me to come on board and want to direct this because, you know, I have been a big fan of the original book as well as the show, but to see what they had done to it in terms of adapting was really exciting.

Whose idea was it to adapt The Night Manager? How did you become a part of the process?

Sandeep Modi: This was October of 2020, actually September, when I started having conversations with the original producers of The Night Manager.

They were looking for someone to come on board as the creative voice on it.

The idea was simple, that it’s a show that has won accolades.

The book was written in 1993, the original show was made in 2015-2016 in the UK, and we are making it again in 2023.

The world of arms dealers and war-mongers is still a reality of our lives.

It’s still topical and is, unfortunately, a true reflection of our times.

How did Anil Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur become a part of it?

Sandeep Modi: When we wrote Shailendra Rungta, we wanted an actor who could embody the hate as well as the love for the man.

We were trying to create an iconic personality.

He is an arms dealer masquerading as a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a businessman, basically, somebody you could love and hate in equal parts.

I really had to convince Anil Kapoor about the hating part, saying, ‘Sir, trust me, there is that bone in you which you can find and bring that out.’

He used to tell me, ‘Sandeep, I have always been the most loved guy on screen. I do comedy. How are you looking at me as a villain?’

So I said, ‘Sir, I can see it.’

And he said, ‘Okay, now you are scaring me. You can see me as a villain.’

I think that’s what challenged him.

He kept saying that, not many people have seen a villain in him, and yet, this was not a typical villain.

He is not a ‘maut ka saudagar‘.

He is just a guy who has his own reasons for selling arms; he’s a businessman.

He does illegal business, but he has ethics.

As far as Aditya Roy Kapur’s role is concerned, we were looking for a chameleon, somebody who is easy on the eye, somebody who can be the night manager, who looks like a guy-next-door but you change two things in him and suddenly, he can change his personality. Aditya fit the bill.

We were keen to cast him and thankfully, the material excited him enough.

He is a very fine, fine, actor.

Anil Kapoor has just completed four decades in the industry. Was it intimidating to direct someone so senior?

Priyanka Ghosh: In the initial stages that I had come on board, Sandeep had already taken him through the character and story arc.

The joy of working with AK sir is that he does not make you feel that he is bringing on the baggage of those 40 years of experience.

He makes you feel like it is his first time.

He is so hungry to work!

He was ready to let go of all his earlier learnings and give in to whatever Sandeep and I wanted.

Of course, he would bring in his own tips from his experience.

It was always a collaborative process, that’s why I never found him intimidating.

Sandeep Modi: We used to keep telling him, ‘Sir, you are also our assistant director, our location manager and our personal stylist.’

He was such a team player.

The steps he took to ensure that Priyanka and I felt comfortable were enormous.

He would never watch the monitor; he would just look at the director. If the director said this was not great and he needed more, he would just go for it. That’s the kind of faith he had.

There was hardly any intimidation.

Sometimes we had to tell him, ‘Sir, please bring on the intimidation for this take because it needed to be done a certain way.’

He would be like, ‘Okay, now I will give you the 40 years experience wallah take.’

As per reports, Hrithik Roshan was the original choice for the lead role in the series. Was there any reason he could not be a part of the show?

Sandeep: Before I got married to my wife, I think I met 11 girls (laughs).

I don’t think those conversations serve any purpose.

I feel blessed that I got the best cast for the show.

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