Sharmaji Namkeen: Perfect ode to the legend of Rishi Kapoor
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Juhi Chawla, Suhail Nayyar, Taaruk Raina
What would life look like if one day you had absolutely nothing to do? It’s very true that a routine gets us going. Having something to look forward to in life is what makes it exciting. Sharmaji, a 58-year-old widower is forced to retire voluntarily and now he feels stuck. His entire life, after the death of his wife, depended on the routine of going to work. His work is what kept him busy all these years and now it was taken away from him. Boredom and loneliness slowly kick in and Sharma is resolute in escaping these post-retirement impacts. He takes his interest in cooking a notch higher and starts serving as a cook for a kitty that comprises a bunch of reveling women.
Sharmaji Namkeen will go down in the history of Indian cinema as a movie that had two actors playing the same characters in alternate scenes. The reason for such a diversion is the death of legendary actor Rishi Kapoor in April 2020, while the film was halfway through production. Paresh Rawal stepped in to complete the film by taking over the character of Sharmaji, which was portrayed by Rishi Kapoor. Paresh Rawal and Rishi Kapoor are two brilliant actors who have their own styles when it comes to acting. So it is likely to expect a deviation in the continuity. But the good part is that this difference is mild. And as we are already expecting such a difference, we are not bothered by it at all, at least I wasn’t. The difference in character portrayal is evident but definitely not messy. Rishi Kapoor’s Sharmaji is annoyingly cute while Paresh Rawal’s Sharmaji is a little irritating and loud. But there’s no comparison or question on who did it better. The movie is not about that. It is entirely about Rishi Kapoor and his legacy. Paresh Rawal just covers up for the part that Rishi Kapoor couldn’t complete.
In this posthumous release, Rishi Kapoor brings everything to the table as the actor that he was. The brilliant charm, spontaneity, cute arrogance, and soaking in every ounce of the character detail give us a performance worth remembering. The detail with which the character has been written is evident in the way he dresses, the flap cover phone he uses, and the way he talks.
Sharmaji has two lovely sons; Sandeep, the elder and responsible one, and Vincy, the younger college-going one. Sandeep, affectionately called Rinku is busy setting his life and is in plans to get married and shift to a posh neighborhood in Delhi. He tries to get his father to shift with him who won’t agree to this plan as he has too many memories attached to his current home. With Sharmaji also serving as a cook for the kitty, a rift between father and son takes shape. But unlike movies like Bhagban where the elderly are always the right and the kids are always the ones at fault, Sharmaji Namkeen offers a refreshing parent-child dynamics where no one is villainized. There’s no right or wrong here, just adult individuals with different wants in life. The movie handles this parent-child dynamic really well.
The women in the kitty that Sharmaji works for are not random aunties who come together to gossip and rant about others in the neighborhood. They are women belonging to different age groups who are living their best lives and supporting each other monetarily and mentally, becoming each other’s best confidants. Veena (Juhi Chawla), a member of this kitty makes Sharmaji’s heart skip a beat. Juhi Chawla’s luminous presence lightens up the whole room.
Without being preachy or lengthy, Sharmaji Namkeen leaves us with food for thought. It is the best tribute to the legend of actor Rishi Kapoor.
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