The Night Manager’s Brightest Star: Tillotama Shome as Lipika

In the impressive cast of the Indian adaptation of The Night Manager, the actor stands out for her performance of a woman who is defiantly joyful
The Night Manager’s Brightest Star: Tillotama Shome as Lipika
Tillotama Shome Interview

The Night Manager, created by David Farr, started off as a 2016 British series about a hotel’s night manager recruited to worm his way into an arms dealer’s inner circle. It’s had something of a rebirth with the Indian adaptation, directed by Sandeep Modi and Priyanka Ghose. The Indian series sees Tillotama Shome step into the shoes of an intelligence agent and government officer who recruits the titular night manager, played by Aditya Roy Kapur. The criminal they want to bring down is Shailendra Rungta, brought to life by Anil Kapoor. Shome inherited her role from Olivia Colman, but to the Indian actor’s credit, she reimagines it completely. In a fantastical world, with exotic locations and incredible plot twists, Shome brings an authenticity with her performance. Her Lipika is younger, less jaded, and more endearing as a career woman who refuses to be cowed by circumstances. She makes you want to cheer for her as she finds herself challenged by the system in which she works. Speaking to Film Companion, Shome said that it was a relief to play a working woman who is close to her age. What’s even better is that she’s “joyous”, Shome pointed out. “I’ve had enough of the Shakespearean tragedies,” she said. 

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:   

What about your role in The Night Manager appealed to you?

It was nice to play a working woman. It was nice to play a woman that’s age-appropriate, close to the age that I am at. Not having to be too young or too old was a relief. It was nice to play a woman who is in a man’s world and has figured out ways to navigate the toxic male world through her spirit, sense of humour, ability to circumvent protocols, her madness…it’s fun to play, and a RAW agent!

In the original, Olivia Colman plays your role in the adaptation. Did that impact your performance in any way? 

I’m a huge Olivia Colman fan and I have seen her since she was really young. She’s only got all this attention in the last couple of years. But I’ve been a huge fan for a very long time and I just think of her as great. The reason I didn’t watch the show and insisted on only reading the adaptation was because I can’t unsee what she has done. And I knew that the strength of an adaptation is not in trying to imitate the original but (in) finding the nuances and particularities of the adaptation, the new world that you’re creating.

Tillotama Shome in The Night Manager

You play a woman in a position of power in The Night Manager. In the past, you’ve played roles where your character has been powerless. As an actor, was anything different because of this shift? 

No, not really. There are things in the body language that change, but even a person with power is rendered powerless. No character is in a state of stasis. That, “I’m going to play powerful through the whole show” [mood]. People will fall asleep because it’s one note. A human being’s mind goes through so many changes in a day. I don’t think Lipika is aware or gives much importance to her position because she’s always reminded of the fact that she’s a woman and that there’s a boss to reckon with, and that’s in any bureaucratic or office setup. You have a little bit more administrative power than someone else who works for you, but you have less power than the boss that you have to report to. This is the food chain, and Lipika is not propelled by power. … There are times she feels powerful, and there are times where she feels powerless and backed against a wall. 

What was your first thought upon reading the script?
“Who is she? Why does she want to do this job?” But primarily it’s always, “Who is she?” I want to know, is this person happy? Ghar pe kaisa hai? (How are they like at home?) You do see her character with her very supportive husband and that allows her to do the kind of job that she’s doing and pull the hours that she is because there is a marriage that’s secure and a partner that’s understanding. By and large, she is quite joyous. I’ve had enough of the Shakespearean tragedies and the great fall. I was just really happy to play a RAW agent and enter this. The reality, the harshness of the pandemic and the situation in my own household was so intense that life had so many dark shades at a certain point. I really was looking for work to be a fantastical escape. It’s nice to play someone who is from a different world. That was I think the first few thoughts and then…Anil Kapoor, for sure. 

Was it fun working with the cast?

It was really wonderful. I had scenes with Aditya (Roy Kapur) and the most number of scenes I had with this wonderful actor called Anand (Potdukhe), who plays Sarang. We just had so much fun. Mostly we were in the un-glamorous location(s), right? True to our middle-class upbringing in our real lives, we were the representation of the everyday man. But when my character gets to go and see the Richie-rich, I did get to go to Sri Lanka and Shimla and see how the rich live. … Sandeep [Modi] shot scenes with Anil Kapoor sir, Aditya and Sobhita (Dhulipala) because there was so much to cover. Most of my scenes were shot by Priyanka [Ghose]. She is also very detail-oriented. When I would read the script, I would have ideas. I would write those notes and send them to her and tell her that whatever works incorporate, whatever doesn't work...In the very next draft that would be emailed to me, she would have already incorporated the changes. I could see that she was so open and she really won my heart, won my trust and I would do anything for her. On set, we were covering a lot of pages. It was possible because (of) Priyanka. We would finish one scene (and) while I was changing into the new costume, we would be talking about the next scene — “What else can we do? What do you think?” I felt such a sense of camaraderie with her. 

Tillotama Shome in The Night Manager

What are the key differences you’ve noticed between being on the set of a commercial film as opposed to an independent film?

The scale of things is unmissable… On an independent set, if you don't get it today, you may never get it. There is no budget, there is no Plan B. And both have their strengths and weaknesses. This comment is not so one can put one on a pedestal and look down on another. Because that would be a mistake. When you do have that luxury of a Plan B, it also allows a certain kind of experimentation and it's more relaxed. When you don't have a Plan B, the preparation is very much like theatre — it's do or die. The entire crew has to come together for that moment, for that scene to work. That rigour is also quite precious. But I don't approach work based on whether it's a commercial set-up or not. … When we go for another take, I always wonder, “I hope it's not me. I hope it was the boom shadow or there was a soft focus. I hope it's not me.” 

Which is the role that you hold closest to your heart?

I led most of my life being reductive and deconstructing as a literature student, tearing everything apart. I want to be expansive and not reductive. I don't have a favourite. I think it's cruel to have a favourite. I've been blessed to have worked on just so many wonderful parts. Whether it was Alice in Monsoon Wedding (2001), or Kanwar in Qissa (2013), there are just so many. It feels like a mosaic of wonderful women that have come into my life and made it richer and made it more lovely. I would stand up for each of them. I would defend each of them to death.

Related Stories

No stories found.