3.5 / 5
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 for finishing the film. He asked Paresh Rawal to fill-in for Rishi Kapoor. So now you have a film where the central character is played by two actors. This has happened perhaps the first time in India, or anywhere in the world. And the best thing about the film is that it doesn’t let you ponder over who’s better. Rather, you appreciate the fact that you got to witness two brilliant actors giving their own interpretation to a role which teaches you a lot about love, about life.
Brij Gopal Sharma (Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal) is a recently retired manager of Madhuban Appliances. He’s grown tired of his retired life within weeks and yearns to engage himself meaningfully. He indulges in various hobbies and in the end decides to pursue his passion for food and becomes a home cook for a group of kitty 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 pretext of kitty parties to have a space for themselves away from their families. Soon, he becomes their friend and confidante. They’re okay with sharing their grouses in front of him and he wisely listens more and says less. A bond forms between them and he finds he’s now got purpose in life. But he has hidden his choice from his sons. His elder son Sandeep (Suhail Nayyar) does not accept this change because he feels it isn’t respectable enough while his younger son Vinci (Taaruk Raina), who’s into dance, feels it’s okay for their father to follow his heart. It’s only when Sandeep is rescued from a tough situation, thanks to his father’s contacts, that he opens his eyes to the possibility that life has other colors besides gray.
Retirement almost always feels the end of the line for aged folks. They have been following a set routine for years and suddenly feel redundant. They feel they’re a burden on their families as their value has reduced. They fall into a spiral of depression and find it hard to leap out of it. It becomes harder if you don’t have a life partner to share your autumn years. Our films are more or less youth centric and have neglected to address the issues of senior citizens. Few, like Saaransh, or Baaghban have brought it into the limelight. Sharmaji Namkeen is a wonderful addition to that bouquet. It tells you about the abandonment and loneliness felt by the aged even amidst loving, caring family. They have skills and experience galore and all they need is a way to channel them positively. The film gives the message that their family should encourage the pensioners to follow their passion, whatever it might be.
The film is a delightful blend of playful comedy and real-life situations. It isn’t overly preachy, nor does it make the kids into villains. It offers you plausible scenarios and asks you to draw your own conclusions about them.
The editing of the film, by Bodhaditya Banerjee, is first rate. The transition from Rishi Kapoor to Paresh Rawal and vice versa in scene after scene is seamless. After a while, the demarcation between the two actors ceases to matter. The only place where you feel a disparity is in their scenes with Juhi Chawla, who, thanks to their longer association in films, shares a better chemistry with Rishi Kapoor, than with Paresh Rawal. The cinematography by Piyush Puty too is excellent and makes you feel you’re actually in Delhi. The production design, costume, and sound design are also good.
The film would have worked with either of the actors but to have two superb actors essaying one role is the icing on the cake. Both have done an excellent job. The angst, the humor, the pain, as well as the joy felt by their character are brought out in full spectrum by both .. You feel emotional by the fact that this was Rishi Kapoor’s last film. He has been getting meaty roles during his second run and was bound for greater things before death cruelly snatched him away. It wouldn’t have been easy for Paresh Rawal to jump into a film midway and yet he attempted that and came through with flying colors.
Satish Kaushik as Sharmaji’s best buddy KK Chaddha, Parmeet Sethi as politician Robbie, or Sheeba Chaddha as dog lover Mrs Gulati, every actor has filled out his or her part effectively. Isha Talwar too is watchable as Sandeep’s supportive girlfriend. Suhail Nayyar and Tarruk Raina are a perfect fit as the caring sons who have let distance set in between them and their father. Juhi Chawla comes as a breath of fresh air in the life of Sharmaji. They become friends, despite their divergent backgrounds, and there’s a hint of a romance between the two. Juhi is as bubbly, as effervescent as ever as she was in the ’90s and is a treat to watch.
Watch the film for its message and to see two actors on the top of their craft essaying the same characters and making you root for it…
Trailer: Sharmaji Namkeen
Renuka Vyavahare, March 31, 2022, 3:30 AM IST
4.0 / 5
Story: Sharmaji, (played by Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal) a 58-year-old Delhi widower struggles to cope with his new retirement. Yearning for purpose and some company, in a bid to keep himself occupied, the single father decides to follow his long-standing culinary dreams. Do his adult sons approve of their father’s cooking shenanigans and new found voice?
Review: ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’. Routine is quite underrated, isn’t it? Sometimes, even a dead-end job can keep you going. Life passes by for Saajan (Irrfan’s character in The Lunchbox). Days become months and months turn into years as he sincerely meets his 9 to 5 duties. That routine helps him sail through. Sharmaji’s former home appliances job is no different here. It has kept him busy and sometimes that is all that matters. Post retirement, whatsapp groups and his love for cooking leads him to a ladies kitty gang (led by Juhi Chawla). He finds solace in their mundane chatter and despite their privilege; the women are as collectively desolate as him. Through a slice-of-life, simple tale, director Hitesh Bhatia makes a light-hearted but moving case against ageism and gender stereotypes.
Nancy Meyers’ The Intern starring Robert De Niro or Shoojit Sircar’s Piku can be termed as exceptions. Stories about elder people are rarely told with chutzpah and if at all they do get made, they often have an undercurrent of tragedy or regret. All grown children are ungrateful and all troubled parents, an epitome of sacrifice and tolerance. Real life is rarely one dimensional though. Sharmaji Namkeen cleverly evades the Baghban trope and offers a refreshing take on self-love, loneliness and single fatherhood.
While everyone has an opinion, no one’s a villain here. Sometimes, the only hurdle you must overcome is the baggage of your own inhibitions. Bhatia’s protagonist doesn’t wallow in self-pity as someone his age ideally would in our movies. The lead character is kind but doesn’t cave under pressure. He is a doting father but does not compromise on his self-respect. The characters are as real as they can get and their situation, relatable.
Peppered with scrumptious Delhi street food (Aloo Tikki Chaat, Dahi Bhalle, the works), the film is breezy, humorous and uplifting. At no point does it get preachy or dramatic and striking that balance was tough. With no blatant conflict, how do you make the audience root for the protagonist as he’s no victim and there’s no oppressor. Like Shakun Batra, Bhatia presents an authentic depiction of a flawed but endearing child-parent dynamics, which becomes a highlight of this movie. People can co-exist as a family despite the differences.
A posthumous release, who better than Rishi Kapoor to portray a character, who loves his family and food. The late actor was blessed with the ability of baring his soul in every character he essayed. Like his illustrious father Raj Kapoor and son Ranbir, there was an inherent honesty and spunk in Rishi Kapoor that reflected in his roles. In his youth, his good looks often overshadowed his versatile talent. Over time, he made sure he retained that charm while giving some distinctly memorable performances and Sharmaji could be termed as one of his finest. While Paresh Rawal was gracious enough to fill in for the portions that the former couldn’t due to his deteriorating health, this film belongs to Rishi Kapoor alone. It is he who leaves you teary-eyed with his smile and a thought. Indian parents are so used to prioritizing their children. What happens when they decide to turn the tables? Is self-love deemed reckless and selfish because parents are expected to toe the line? Sharmaji Namkeen gives you food for thought.