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Movie Review: ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ (Amazon Prime)

Rishi Kapoor may not have been able to complete his last film ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ in front of the camera, but his essence is felt during the whole two-hour runtime of the movie. His script notes, his characterization and his vision are evident. Perhaps that is why Hitesh Bhatia, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani decided to keep his scenes in the movie. ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ was Kapoor’s film as much as it was theirs.

Newly retired B. G. Sharma doesn’t know what to do with his life anymore. All alone at his beloved home, he’s stuck in a rut: make lunch for his young sons, meet his friends, watch TV, go for a walk, then dinner and sleep. Every day is the same. Enjoy your free time like other retirees – his son Sandeep aka Rinku (Suhail Nayyar) implores – stop being stubborn, I can take care of the house. But how can a single dad with a full-time job suddenly switch to doing nothing? So he decides to fill his time with his only hobby – cooking. For kitty parties. In secret.

The highlights of the movie are the lighter, funnier moments. There are some very apt ‘Baghban’ references by Satish Kaushik that my father would definitely make. The women of ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ are an absolute delight. Have Juhi Chawla, Sheeba Chaddha and Ayesha Raza Mishra ever given a bad performance? They add the fun back into the movie right when it starts becoming mundane. The banter feels so authentic, you can’t help but smile.

Suhail Nayyar, who has shown great humour in his previous performances, is cast as the comedic foil for a change. Sandeep represents the judgemental society, trying to enforce the assigned etiquette and rules of social conduct. What Nayyar very compellingly portrays is that Rinku is actually a child trying to be the adult society expects him to be. His strict adult man turns into a whiny child, and the fierce anger doesn’t cover up the underlying fear. Wish there were more funny moments for him, but we can always look forward to that in his next film.

Sharmaji is played by both Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. Their individual performances are great, and the approach does seem cohesive, even if it doesn’t always feel the same. The tag teaming does get distracting at times, especially in scenes that demand continuity. Everyone knows films are not shot synchronously, but watching Kapoor walk to the balcony, switch into Rawal, then go back to Kapoor as he enters the apartment again is jarring. It emphasizes the trick behind the magic of movies. I guess that is the price you pay when you choose human emotion over magic. Overall, it doesn’t take away too much from ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’, because the movie is a lot more than just the lead actor. Kapoor isn’t in each shot he was meant to be in, but he still completes ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ with his vision and love for the story.