Rishi Kapoor was halfway through filming Sharmaji Namkeen, directed by Hitesh Bhatia, when Hindi cinema lost the legendary actor. The filmmakers devised a creative solution to the problem by bringing in Paresh Rawal, another brilliant actor.
Therefore, the Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal starrer, firstly, will leave you torn between the two Sharmajis. Rather than getting caught up in the task of picking one, we should revel in the fact that we got to see two iconic actors deliver their performances, which are as iconic as the film itself, starring two actors as the main character.
The changing family dynamics evoked by ageing parents and their evolving relationship with their children are at the heart of the film, as written by Bhatia and Supratik Sen.
Brij Gopal Sharma, played by Kapoor and Rawal, is a retired manager of Madhuban Appliances who isn’t willing to sit on the couch while waiting to see Suman ki chori kab pakdi jayegi. Sharma appears to have a plethora of “respectable” hobby choices, ranging from Zumba lessons to real estate, yet he chooses to turn his passion for food into a profession.
Eventually, Sharmaji’s penchant for cooking lands him among a bunch of ladies in a kitty circle who are looking for a “homely cook.”
However, the writer avoids stereotyping the characters portrayed spectacularly by Juhi Chawla (as Veena Manchanda) and Sheeba Chaddha (as Manju Gulati), among others. In fact, they are shown as women of different ages and backgrounds gathering under one roof to carve out a space for themselves, away from their families.
Sharmaji, who is looking for something similar, finds among his newfound pals and space to do what he absolutely loves—cooking—and receives recognition for it. Interestingly, the movie, which takes place mostly at these kitty parties, touches on sexism, female sexuality, and the significance of a woman’s career, as though it were a finely slipped memo to the audience.
The film aptly portrays the difficulties that retirees face, yet it never makes you feel sorry for them. Rather than demanding pity for the protagonist, the viewers are taken on his journey of starting the second innings, independently. It keeps away Sharmaji from providing any clarification demanded by his sons (Suhail Nayyar and Taaruk Raina) or society.
The slice-of-life tale is a fantastic blend of situational humour and sawad anusar drama. But the film itself steers clear of over-the-top comments or guilt-tripping kids. Even though Sharmaji’s friend KK Chaddha (Satish Kaushik) mentions the Baghban finale sequence and urges that it be made mandatory in schools.
Meanwhile, Veena (Juhi Chawla) is a ray of sunshine in the lighthearted comedy-drama as well as in our protagonist’s life. Although Rawal and Chawla are perfectly cast in their roles, one might be swayed by Kapoor and Chawla’s on-screen chemistry.
The supporting ensemble, on the other hand, includes seasoned performers like Sheeba Chaddha, Satish Kaushik, Parmeet Sethi, Ayesha Raza, and Shishir Sharma, who ably complement the star cast. Despite the fact that there was little room for these actors to explore, they gave it their all, as they usually do.
Sharmaji Namkeen might seem tipped in the same direction as Baghban, but it won’t make your parents look at you like you’re the anti-Sharavan Kumar. But the film urges you to recognise that each of us, even our parents, has the right to be our own person.