Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Juhi Chawla, Sheeba Chaddha, Satish Kaushik, Suhail Nayyar, Urmi Kaul
Director: Hitesh Bhatia
As the last film of Bollywood veteran Rishi Kapoor, who passed away mid-way through filming in April 2020, this release was always going to be different. And, as we see Kapoor’s star son, Ranbir Kapoor, come on in the first frame to explain, it really is a befitting swan song. It marks the first time ever in Hindi cinema to feature two different actors portraying a single character, with Paresh Rawal stepping in to play Sharmaji in the scenes left unfinished by Rishi Kapoor.
Brij Gopal or B.G. Sharma (Kapoor/Rawal) is a widower who is forced into retirement aged 58 after years of selling kitchen appliances for a successful Delhi business. After an initial enthusiasm to throw himself into cooking up complex in the kitchen he didn’t have much time for earlier, Sharmaji resorts to forcibly undertaking DIY jobs for neighbours to make use of his enforced free time.
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While his elder son Rinku (Nayyar) tries hard to get his dad to “chill” and embrace a laidback retirement, the emptiness of his long, lonely days stuck at home soon begins to bite. Sharmaji tries hard to search for meaningful tasks that would also give him some pleasure, but finds himself gradually edging towards depression when nothing seems to click.
His empathising close friend, Chaddha (Kaushik), decides to sign him up as a home chef for a gathering, which Sharmaji agrees to with some hesitation. He soon discovers that far from it being a prayer meet, as claimed by Chaddha, it is in fact a women’s kitty party gathering and does a runner.
But his delicious dishes prove a hit with the crowd and soon the orders start pouring in, not only from other members of the kitty party but also bigger local events. Sharmaji finally finds himself gainfully occupied while also bonding with a group of feisty and entertaining women, who are only too happy to include this solo male member into their WhatsApp gang.
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Sharmaji is particularly drawn to Mrs Manchanda (), a widow who is impressed by his cooking skills and also his outlook on life. Will their friendship blossom into something more and will Sharmaji be able to keep this secret cooking life and rendezvous with a bunch of animated middle-aged women a secret from a judgmental Rinku?
For a film that was trying something so completely out of the box as to have two different actors portray the same title role, ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ really makes the most of it. With a heart-warming script at its core and not one but two veteran actors in charge as Sharmaji, the result is a light-hearted tale of resilience and optimism.
Even in his final outing on screen, Rishi Kapoor proves why he will remain in audience memories as one of the finest actors of . His sheer energy and screen presence carries the film all the way through, so much so that Paresh Rawal’s interjections don’t prove overly disruptive.
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The script tackles some very poignant issues around an ageing society and the bonds of family and friendship are also handled with comforting ease as a result of adept performances by all the supporting cast.
As said at the very start, it really is a nice way to remember a legendary Bollywood actor who had the ability to make us laugh and get teary with such ease!