In a career spanning almost five decades, the late great Rishi Kapoor managed to establish fans throughout multiple generations. Being the superstar that he was during his younger years and then being the fine artiste doing finer roles in the later years, his appeal catered to generations of both times.
And hence, as I saw Sharmaji Namkeen - Rishi Kapoor's last movie appearance; I was initially sceptical and worried as to if it will be the perfect goodbye to him or not. Well, it surely is.
B.G. Sharma (Paresh Rawal/Rishi Kapoor) has been forcefully asked to take an early retirement from the company he was serving for over three decades. Having been a workaholic throughout his life, he is now struggling to 'enjoy' retirement and the usual concepts attached to it. It doesn't help that his wife has passed away and both his sons, Rinku (Suhail Nayyar) and Vincy are busy their respective lives. However, it is his passion for cooking that somehow gives his lonely life a push where he finds an unlikely group of friends in the form of a group of women who organise kitty parties. Several other unanticipated events lead to ups and downs in Sharmaji's life as it reaches a fitting end.
It is a first for a Bollywood film to have one character being played by two different actors. In a video before the movie begins, Ranbir Kapoor mentions how the makers did have the thought of having him on board with prosthetic and complete the film after the unfortunate incident. I couldn't be happier with the fact that they didn't do that. The fantastic actor that is Paresh Rawal, he did not just step in to play Sharmaji being a great gesture but he skilfully and seamlessly becomes Rishi Kapoor's Sharmaji. As we know, Kapoor's sudden passing away meant that only bits and parts of the film were shot and hence they had to shoot with Rawal with scenes that belong to the beginning, middle or end of the film's chronology, but this entire thing seems effortlessly patched in owing to Rawal's fine act as Sharmaji. Not only does he deserve special plaudits for the kind gesture of stepping in but also making sure that Kapoor's Sharmaji was understood and replicated in the best possible way.
Juhi Chawla comes as a breath of fresh air not only for Sharmaji but for the viewers as well. The actor is fantastic with her understated portrayal of Vinny Manchanda and just like she becomes the reason to smile for Sharmaji, she does for the viewers as well. The entire 'girl gang' of the kitty party are brilliant with their characters playing typical rich Punjabi women but who have large hearts and their own backstories. The standout in them was obviously the always reliable Sheeba Chadda. Another fresh sight was having to see Suhail Nayyar in a 'normal' guy character. The actor, who has caught attention with his bratty Punjabi boy roles earlier is a simple, hardworking and normal son here who obviously struggles with his own problems. Nayyar is fantastic as well.
In the end, we cannot stress more on how it seems fitting that this film is Kapoor's last. Not only do we see amongst the finest that the late actor has displayed but it is the perfect goodbye to his legendary acting career where he only became an 'actor' in its true sense in the final years of his career. Having brought everyone to a pleasant shock with Agneepath as Rauf Lala, Kapoor's last act has everyone laughing, tearing and adoring him as Sharmaji Namkeen.
It is amazing to think that Sharmaji Namkeen is director Hitesh Bhatia's debut. Not only does the man manage to have a stellar debut but one can see his eye for the smaller things throughout the film that makes it such a joy to watch.
Comedy is tricky business but when you manage to crack some of the most hilarious one-liners, your job is half done. The film that has a keen eye on the smaller things from a middle class man's life which leads to some fun lines like 'subah uthke 4 red bull pee rahe hai', Vincy in his car when his brother and father are fighting while driving saying - 'muje second-hand car accident mein nahi marna', Satish Kaushik's character saying 'Baghban ka last scene compulsory kar dena chahiye school aur colleges mein' are gems of comedy.
Even the more meaningful lines are well written and performed as well which include 'jab tak koi bill na bhar raha ho, kisi ko meri yaad nahi aati'.
Fantastic Observations of Daily Lives made Comical
An extra point here has to be given to the writers and director for having a keen eye on the daily-life happenings and making hilarious situations out of it. This leads tho the factor of being relatable to everyone watching and laughing along. Be it how the elderly are fascinated by technology and end up sending a barrage of messages on WhatsApp, Facebook etc or be it Sharmaji's friend, played by Satish Kaushik marking about dog-walking being a respected profession - these are hysterical.
There are so many nuances to the film and so subtly done that you cannot help but applaud it. The scene where the entire family is in a restaurant in a family get-together but are so occupied with eating food that conversations take a backseat, the role reversal of a young and earning son mouthing token lines to his elderly father which were the same that the latter used on him when he would have been younger; the empathetic display of loneliness that elderly face when they have nothing to do in their later years and so on - it is a film brimming with such instances that are immensely heartening.
Ultimately, I had my pre-conceived notions before watching the film but they were pulverised and how! Sharmaji Namkeen is not only a gentle warm hug in the form of a film but it is also a fine and subtle reminder of the struggles the elderly face in their lonelier years.
Rishi Kapoor - you will be remembered by your best!
Rating - **** (4/5)