Being a kid from the late 90s, the earliest memories I have of Rishi Kapoor include the junk food craving, casanova dad in Hum Tum, the double faced film producer in Luck By Chance or a young woman’s strict, overprotective father in Bewakoofiyan; basically his successful second innings in the Hindi film industry. And the same actor in his final spell brings us Sharmaji, a jovial, middle aged, West Delhi man with a never ending drive for ambition and productivity, even post retirement.
How Brij Gopal Sharma starts working as a chef for special gatherings while hiding it from his family and society, forms the premise of Hitesh Bhatia’s Sharmaji Namkeen. Within the conservative and conventional Delhi shown in the film, Sharmaji becomes instantly likeable. He will criticise his workplace for forcing premature retirement on him, but also sing praises of his boss and company. He will find out about his son’s relationship from Facebook but won’t stalk further or interrogate. Most importantly, he will successfully carry out his plans and desires, making sure he doesn’t hurt his loved ones in doing so.
The story also gives substantial importance to the supporting characters. Mainly Sharmaji’s two sons; Rinku, who wants to lead a better life than his father and is trying to make ends meet, and Vincy, an aspiring dancer and the only one in the family who understands and stands by Sharmaji’s decision. The best. of course, are the gang of kitty party ladies led by Veena (a soothing performance by Juhi Chawla). Veena ends up sharing a very special bond with the man. Their friendship (or eventual romance) is built on a strong foundation of mutual respect, admiration and a longing for togetherness, which itself could’ve been a separate story.
Sharmaji Namkeen is a feel-good, entertaining tale of a sweet, troubled, ambitious man with the underlying arcs of self worth, parenting and honest communication, topped with delicious visuals of food from multiple cuisines. The only turn-off is the aftertaste of unnecessary plot devices just for the sake of conflict. But the performances more than make up for it.
One thing that not a lot of people are talking about is the music. I felt the album composed by Sneha Khanwalkar has the right amount of groove and can definitely make us vibe to it. Also the lyrics by Gopal Datt make Aram Karo and Laal Tamatar my personal favourites.
Finally to the couple of Sharmajis. The film begins and ends with Paresh Rawal and his irritation and calmness respectively. He adds the much needed sass, nervousness and anxiety very effectively. But I just couldn’t imagine him twisting his hips to Baby Doll, while kneading dough in the kitchen, no disrespect intended. Hats off to the makers for presenting the two Sharmajis with a distinct voice and tonality, and to Paresh Rawal for beautifully complementing his counterpart whilst keeping the soul of the character intact.
Because soulful is the word that comes to mind when I see Rishi Kapoor on screen for the last time. The loneliness, the irritation, the lying and worrying about getting caught, the nervousness, the swag and the charm is just legendary! All of it seems effortless and yet we know he has put in a lot of effort. The efforts reflect in his filmography; all his experiments, all the brave choices and the will to continue working irrespective of success or failure. Rest in peace Chintu Ji.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.