Sharmaji Namkeen: More A Rich Tribute To Rishi Kapoor, Less A Great Movie!


The Amazon original movie ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ (Savory Mr. Sharma) that released on Prime Video on 31st March 2022 is all about one of the greatest actors of Bollywood—the lovable romantic hero since the seventies who started graduating to endearing and at times intense performances in character roles since the 2000s—Rishi Kapoor. The movie actually reminds us how dearly we miss the stalwart who passed away on 30th April, 2020. Rishi Kapoor after being cast in the titular role in this movie and shooting started accordingly fell seriously ill. He had to undergo prolonged treatment in the US. Movie director Hitesh Bhatia and the producers waited for him to get well and return to the shoots. It was just impossible to replace him. His tremendous actor-son Ranbir Kapoor said how eager too was his father to complete the film. Rishi Kapoor did get well, returned to India by the end of 2019 and the shooting schedule started anew from December. Sadly, it was short lived. The superstar fell sick again and never returned to the sets.

 


It created a crisis now, because all connected with the movie felt at the innermost parts of their hearts that the movie had to be completed out of pure respect for the great actor who had his swansong as the endearing Sharmaji in this movie. Ranbir also thought about getting into his father’s shoes, but he felt the prosthetics would be far too heavy to do justice to the role. Finally, another great actor of Bollywood, Paresh Rawal, came forward to complete the role, again out of pure love and respect for Rishi Kapoor. And history was made. ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ became perhaps the first Bollywood film ever to have two stalwarts doing the same role. To the credit of the director and the editor the intercuts between the scenes of Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal have been done expertly and seamlessly, like Rishi Kapoor cooking in the kitchen and Rawal coming out or the former inside a car in one scene and Rawal in the next.

 

The movie starts with a lot of promise as the widower Mr. Sharma is given voluntary retirement by his company and the ever-ebullient and the busy bee Sharmaji wonders and ponders on what to do now. His two sons, the elder working and the younger studying, are not much of a help as they only argue with their father apart from gorging on the delicious dishes cooked by him. So, the premise was very real and palpable in Delhi middle-class environs. However, the thin storyline becomes even thinner with most of the characters including the sons, the elder son’s fiancĂ©e, most of the kitty party ladies and others are left rather half-baked. The film, in reality, becomes a series of conversations involving the rotating characters.

 

The most disturbing part of the storytelling has been the background score and songs. It seems the filmmaker-writers have become much too conscious that what they are churning out is an out and out comedy, and so the background music from the very first frame tries to be sounding grotesquely comic while there are hardly any genuine laughs generated in the labored process except for a few rare moments. On the top of that constant disturbance comes the staccato bursts of the background songs that are utterly unnecessary.

 

No doubt the film avoids loud, predictable and cliched drama; but in the climax it succumbs to the usual dramatic twist indulged in by most commercial movies in order to convince the characters steadfastly opposing the protagonist. It is also surprising why at all should the eldest son oppose the exercise of Sharmaji’s exemplary culinary talents, particularly in the present modern society where cooking has become gender neutral with male chefs in gay abundance, and why should Sharmaji himself hide his activities. Most of the dialogues too seem to be manufactured with conscious care rather than allowing them come out naturally from the characters and the situations.  

 

Of course, the movie is immensely watchable for a one-time view, and Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and Juhi Chawla keep you engaged for most of its two-hour duration. And considering this posthumous release of Rishi Kapoor’s last performance the movie is unmissable. Another highlight of the film is the director’s treatment of the kitty parties, showing the ladies with their genuine painful backgrounders, the monotony and ennui of mundane existences and the spirit of celebration. And the ladies here discuss everything under the sun, including the taboo subjects for ‘family’ entertainers. Juhi Chawla as the ever-smiling Veena Manchanda and Sheeba Chaddha as the intriguing Manju Gulati shine out among the kitty party women. Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal fit in with them as if ecclesiastically. Unfortunately, leading actor-comedian Satish Kaushik is almost wasted.

 

We thank the filmmaker-producers and the crew of ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ for giving us a chance to behold Rishi Kapoor again in an endearing performance and allowing us to pay our tributes to him one more time. We thank our favorite artiste Paresh Rawal for taking up the huge challenge to get into Rishi Kapoor’s skin so that the movie could be completed. As the beginning with Ranbir Kapoor and the end credits combined with the old evergreen songs show the film is indeed a rich tribute to Rishi Kapoor.

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