Rishi Kapoor was halfway through filming Sharmaji Namkeen, when he sadly passed away. Instead of canning the film, director Hitesh Bhatia came up with a unique solution to finish the film. He asked Paresh Rawal to replace Rishi Kapoor. So now you have a film where the central character is played by two actors. It may have happened for the first time in India, or anywhere in the world. And the best thing about the movie is that it doesn’t leave you wondering who is the best. On the contrary, you appreciate the fact of having been able to see two brilliant actors give their own interpretation of a role which teaches you a lot about love, about life.
Brij Gopal Sharma (Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal) is a recently retired director of Madhuban Appliances. He’s tired of his retirement life in a matter of weeks and longs to make a meaningful commitment. He indulges in various hobbies and eventually decides to pursue his passion for food and becomes a home cook for a group of party ladies. Veena Manchanda (Juhi Chawla), Manju Gulati (Sheeba Chaddha), Aarti Bhatia (Sulagna Panigrahi) and their friends belong to different ages and backgrounds and use the excuse of cat parties to have a space for themselves away from their families. Soon he becomes their friend and confidant. They agree to share their grouse in front of him and he wisely listens more and says less. A bond forms between them and he discovers that he now has a purpose in life. But he hid his choice from his sons. His eldest son Sandeep (Suhail Nayyar) does not accept this change as he feels it is not respectable enough while his younger son Vinci (Taaruk Raina), who loves dancing, thinks it is normal that their father follow his heart. It is only when Sandeep is rescued from a difficult situation, thanks to his father’s contacts, that he opens his eyes to the possibility that life has other colors than gray.
Retirement is almost always the end of the line for seniors. They follow a routine established for years and suddenly feel redundant. They feel like a burden on their family because their worth has gone down. They fall into a spiral of depression and find it difficult to get out of it. It gets harder if you don’t have a life partner to share your fall years with. Our films are more or less centered on youth and have neglected to address the problems of seniors. Few, as Saaransh or Baaghban have brought to light. Sharmaji Namkeen is a wonderful addition to this bouquet. It tells you about the abandonment and loneliness felt by the elderly, even within a loving and caring family. They have skills and experience aplenty and all they need is a way to channel them in a positive way. The film sends the message that their families should encourage retirees to follow their passion, whatever it may be.
The film is a delightful mix of playful comedy and real-life situations. It’s not too preachy and it doesn’t turn kids into bad guys. It offers you plausible scenarios and asks you to draw your own conclusions.
The film’s editing, by Bodhaditya Banerjee, is top-notch. The transition from Rishi Kapoor to Paresh Rawal and vice versa scene after scene is seamless. After a while, the demarcation between the two actors no longer matters. The only place you feel a disparity is in their scenes with Juhi Chawla, who, thanks to their longer association in the movies, shares better chemistry with Rishi Kapoor than with Paresh Rawal. Piyush Puty’s cinematography is also excellent and makes you feel like you are actually in Delhi. The production design, costumes, and sound design are also good.
The movie would have worked with either actor, but having two great actors try out for a role is the icing on the cake. Both did a great job. The anguish, humor, pain, as well as the joy felt by their character are highlighted by both. You feel moved that this is Rishi Kapoor’s last film. He got meaty roles in his second run and was destined for bigger things before death cruelly snatched him away. It wouldn’t have been easy for Paresh Rawal to get into a movie halfway through and yet he gave it a shot and pulled it off with flying colors.
Satish Kaushik as Sharmaji’s best friend, KK Chaddha, Parmeet Sethi as politician Robbie, or Sheeba Chaddha as dog lover Mrs. Gulati, each actor did their part well. Isha Talwar is also observable as Sandeep’s supportive girlfriend. Suhail Nayyar and Tarruk Raina fit perfectly as caring sons who allowed distance to be between them and their father. Juhi Chawla comes like a breath of fresh air in Sharmaji’s life. They become friends, despite their divergent backgrounds, and there is a hint of romance between the two. Juhi is as bubbly, as effervescent as ever in the 90s and a delight to watch.
Watch the film for its message and see two actors at the top of their game trying out the same characters and rooting for you…
Trailer: Sharmaji Namkeen
Renuka Vyavahare, March 31, 2022, 3:30 am IST
Story: Sharmaji, (played by Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal) a 58-year-old Delhi widower is struggling to cope with his new retirement. Longing for purpose and companionship, in a bid to keep busy, the single dad decides to pursue his longtime culinary dreams. Do his adult sons approve of their father’s culinary shenanigans and his new voice?
Review: “Busy living or busy dying”. Routine is pretty underrated, isn’t it? Sometimes even a dead end job can keep you going. Life passes for Saajan (Irrfan’s character in The Lunchbox). Days turn into months and months turn into years as he earnestly completes his 9 to 5 homework. This routine helps him navigate. Sharmaji’s former home appliance job is no different here. It kept him busy and sometimes that’s all that matters. After his retirement, WhatsApp groups and his love for cooking lead him to a gang of ladies (led by Juhi Chawla). He finds solace in their banal chatter and despite their privilege; the women are as collectively sorry as he is. Through a simple, slice-of-life story, director Hitesh Bhatia presents a lighthearted but moving case against ageism and gender stereotypes.
Nancy Meyers’ intern with Robert De Niro or Shoojit Sircar’s Piku can be called exceptions. Stories about old people are rarely told boldly, and if done, they often have an undercurrent of tragedy or regret. All adult children are ungrateful and all troubled parents an embodiment of sacrifice and tolerance. However, real life is rarely one-dimensional. Sharmaji Namkeen cleverly escapes the Baghban trope and offers a refreshing take on self-love, loneliness and single fatherhood.
While everyone has an opinion, no one is a villain here. Sometimes the only obstacle you have to overcome is the baggage of your own inhibitions. Bhatia’s protagonist doesn’t feel sorry for himself as someone his age in our films would ideally do. The main character is nice but does not give in under pressure. He is an adoring father who does not compromise on his self-esteem. The characters are as real as possible and their situation relatable.
Dotted with delicious Delhi street food (Aloo Tikki Chaat, Dahi Bhalle, The Works), the film is airy, humorous and uplifting. At no point does it become preachy or dramatic and finding that balance was difficult. With no glaring conflict, how do you get the audience to root for the protagonist because he’s not a victim and there’s no oppressor. Like Shakun Batra, Bhatia presents an authentic depiction of a flawed yet endearing child-parent dynamic, which becomes a highlight of this film. People can coexist as a family despite differences.
A posthumous release, who better than Rishi Kapoor to portray a character who loves his family and his food. The late actor had the chance to show his soul in every character he tried. Like his illustrious father Raj Kapoor and son Ranbir, Rishi Kapoor had an inherent honesty and courage that was reflected in his roles. In her youth, her beauty often overshadowed her versatile talent. Over time, he made sure to retain that charm while giving memorable performances and Sharmaji can be called one of his best. While Paresh Rawal was kind enough to fill in the parts the first one couldn’t due to his failing health, this movie belongs to Rishi Kapoor alone. He is the one who leaves you with tears in your eyes with his smile and a thought. Indian parents are so used to putting their children first. What happens when they decide to turn things around? Is self-love considered reckless and selfish because parents are expected to toe the line? Sharmaji Namkeen gives you food for thought.