Sharmaji Namkeen Hindi Movie
In Hitesh Bhatia's Sharmaji Namkeen, Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal play Brij Gopal Sharma, a retiree who works as a chef. Kapoor died before the completion of the film, so the makers roped in Rawal to act in the scenes that the former could not complete. It may seem a tad confusing if you skip the monologue of Ranbir Kapoor at the start of the film on Amazon Prime.
You also have to understand a thing or two about filmmaking to understand this dual act. Almost every filmmaker does not shoot their movie in the order of the scenes that the audience eventually gets to see. In Sharmaji Namkeen, this creates a narrative conundrum in that Rawal and Kapoor appear as the same character in the same scene or back-to-back scenes. Take an early scene where Kapoor's Sharma goes to the balcony, for instance. The man who goes to the balcony is Kapoor, but the one who talks to his son from the area is Rawal's Sharmaji. So it requires the audience to make a leap of faith, a small compromise for a simple, sweet and funny film.
Thankfully, Bhatia's storytelling keeps the two actors from portraying the same character in two different ways. The story is quite simple and relatable. Kapoor and Rawal play a retiree with a passion for cooking, serving as a chef for a group of aunties who often throw kitty parties. It is a role reversal of sorts. The aunties like Sharmaji and the food he prepares so much that they make him a part of the gang. But the young sons of Sharmaji do not like their father working as a cook for the kitty party gang. Fearing backlash from his sons, Sharmaji hides his new job from his sons.
It is a simple premise, but the film benefits greatly from the performances and the authenticity of the setting. For instance, there is a lived-in feel for the home of Sharmaji and an emotional value. So when he tells his son that he does not want to leave his house, you can relate to the sentiment. Rishi Kapoor is effortless and charming as always in the film. It helps that he was known for being a foodie as the life of his character here revolves around food.
The other notable performances in the film come from Suhail Nayyar, Rawal and Juhi Chawla. Bhatia focuses a bit too much on the real estate issues of Nayyar's character, Sandeep Sharma, but also derives a fine performance from the actor. Nayyar plays a nine-to-five corporate guy who thinks less of his father. It may be an easy character on paper, but Nayyar brings a lot of authenticity to it and makes the character relatable. Juhi Chawla's Veena Manchanda has glimpses of the funny characters she used to play in the nineties but also a sad backstory. Bhatia uses Rawal and tells the story cleverly by putting the actor mostly in scenes where his Sharmaji appears irritable. It is a mood that Rawal usually nails in films.
The climax of the film may be a tad simplistic, and the movie appears a bit light in some places. But the light approach to storytelling is also a good thing as it avoids melodrama and cheap sentimentality. At around 2 hours, Sharmaji Namkeen is light entertainment done right.