Sandeep Modi

The Night Manager

Sandeep Modi

As the creator and creative force behind two widely acclaimed shows, Aarya and Night Manager, Sandeep Modi has remarkably demonstrated his flair for crafting compelling narratives. Night Manager, available on Disney+ Hotstar, has garnered widespread acclaim for its gripping storyline, nuanced characters, and its ability to leave viewers craving more after each episode. Let's delve into Sandeep Modi’s journey as a storyteller. 

As a filmmaker, what feeds your creativity and keeps you inspired?
You’re always looking at the people around you and you realise that there're so many stories. There are so many conflicts — small moments that you keep seeing. And I feel very greedy that how do I capture it in a certain way and how do I present it to more people. It's actually a problem. Even if you go to a funeral and while you're in the middle of an emotion, you're looking around and saying, look at that, this is how a moment should be captured! This is what I wish our cinema would do.

I get driven by this. How do I take a slice of our life and put it together on the screen? How do you make a moment come alive? So that has been my recent trip, if I can call it that. I get quite excited and interested by that. I'm quite interested in the stories of people. I actually keep looking for inspiration. I get scared that making shows with soaring ambitions and people in an absolutely rich world, I shouldn't be boxing myself or putting myself in a world with a lot of walls. So I constantly yearn to break out of them and find these colours around me to see what happens when they become one with me in a way. 

You adapted Aarya and Night Manager for the screen. So what is most important when you’re adapting for the screen?
I think the reason why you're doing it is most important. The audiences are extremely sharp. They understand when something is being done in the right spirit, and the spirit is to tell a good story again. If it comes from a point of laziness, I think the audiences are too smart and too sharp, they’re not gonna invest so much energy into it. So for me, the first thing I'm looking at when I'm adapting is that why are we doing it? Why should I as an audience give it time if the filmmaker is not gonna give it the time and attention and love it deserves? 

What I find most intriguing is how do we put this story in a present time and where does it belong? Where does it feel like it's actually not being transported? And the adaptation then leads you on how it wants to be adapted. You know, you just follow it. Like a student, you just keep following where the characters want to go, where the stories want to go.

Why did you choose to present the show to the audience in two parts?
I wanted it to not be binged. I find binging to be a very full concept. You go to a restaurant and have a seven course meal — you want to savour it, you enjoy it. And Night Manager is not a very light, fluffy tale. It has so much going into it, such strong emotions. And also, it is set not across a month or two months of a character's life. It is set across five years of Shaan Sengupta’s life. So I was quite uneasy about the binging idea. I wanted the audience to savour each part. 

Filmmaking is one of the most invested art forms, in the sense it takes more than a few hundred people to make films. Then it takes a few hundred people to exhibit it; whether it's a cinema hall or whether it is the people who bring it to an OTT platform, and even the audiences invest a lot more of their time to watch. So when you look at that, you realise that you're not the only guy who can decide the fate of how everything will be done, because there are other people who understand the business of exhibition, who understand the logistics of it much better. So it came from them that they want to lead this into a split show idea, which was quite unique. 

Sandeep Modi

You had a stellar ensemble cast where everyone brought their best, what kind of work went into that?
I was really worried that I did not want this to start smelling like a Bollywood film. While it's mainstream and had a lot of these elements that one would relate to mainstream cinema, I was looking for a balance of good filmmaking and storytelling.While it was great to have Anil, and the other actors, I wanted to balance it. I wanted to break that trope so that the vibe that comes across was unique. 

For me it’s a two protagonist story. It is Lipika and Shaan and they are people who you don't expect to be pitted against Anil Kapoor. For me, that was one of the joys I had while putting this together. I always feel films and shows get made before you make them, they get made on the decision table with the crew. I'm very happy and proud that the decisions I could take have worked out in its favour, have given it its individual identity. And yes, I had a great time working with all these actors. They're fabulous actors. It was a dream cast but it takes a mammoth amount of effort to guide them, take them together towards one line of vision, and that became my singular focus. 

Where do you go from here? Are you willing to explore and see what a feature film holds?
I'm asking this question to myself. Honestly, I don't know whether I should be changing things or whether I should continue doing exactly what I've been doing so far. Some things have worked, some things have really not worked out. I don't want to start imagining that this is what the audience wants. I've always made things for myself and hope that the audience is on the same page with me. I'm very keen to continue on that path. I'm aware of the syntax of a commercial film that plays in cinema. But I'm also aware that you can't design a film. You have to make a film. You have to tell a story and there are no rules. As long as the film is exciting, interesting, and inviting, people will be there to watch it. 

Night Manager II is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. 


Words Hansika Lohani
Date 12-07-2023