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SHARMAJI NAMKEEN - A befitting swan song of Rishi Kapoor, well supported by Paresh Rawal and Juhi Chawla, but it’s not the first of its kind of experiment in Indian cinema. (Review by Bobby Sing)

01 Apr, 2022 | Just In / Movie Reviews / 2022 Releases

The last film of Rishi Kapoor subtly prepares the viewers for a brave experiment in Hindi cinema (featuring two actors playing the same character) through an emotional introduction by Ranbir Kapoor, fondly remembering his father. The heartfelt explanation works and one doesn’t feel awkward watching the actors abruptly changing in random sequences, beginning with Paresh Rawal, quickly moving over to Rishi Kapoor in the very first scenes.
Following the same pattern, the film also closes with all the behind-the-scenes shots of Kapoor interacting with his actors along with the track ‘Om Shanti Om’ from Karz playing in the backdrop. These two intelligent insertions, making you recall his likable, nostalgic charm, do the trick, not allowing you to think about any shortcomings in between, resulting in praises. And that’s the reason you will rarely find anyone talking about the downers of Sharmaji Namkeen in their online posts and tweets. The observation also represents how passionately we feel connected with our lovable veterans of cinema post their demise.
However, the other reality remains that had this film been a theatrical release, then one would have found mostly empty theatres even in the initial weekend, with a big proportion of filmgoers waiting for its OTT release. It’s the harsh reality that cannot be denied and therefore it’s a wise decision of its makers, to directly release Sharmaji Namkeen online, finding many more takers.
Written and directed by Hitesh Bhatia, it is yet again a West Delhi-based movie, with characters living in the Subhash Nagar region speaking in a Punjabi tone, including the typical abuses. The settings (including the camerawork and background score) straight away look like an extension of similar elements witnessed in Kapoor’s earlier films like Do Dooni Chaar and Rajma Chawal. The premise even reminds you of Paresh Rawal’s role as a Sikh in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Yet Sharmaji Namkeen successfully reaches out to the audience because of its simple and innocent storytelling with the three family members enacting it without any over-the-top dialogues or mannerisms, especially the young sons played by Suhail Nayyar and Taaruk Raina. The supporting cast delivers equally realistic portrayals by Isha Talwar, Satish Kaushik, Ayesha Raza, (a bit loud) Sheeba Chadha, and Parmeet Sethi. But the best scenes of the film are the ones featuring Rishi Kapoor/Paresh Rawal and Juhi Chawla, thankfully not moving into the cliché romantic zone.
In its 120 minutes duration, Sharmaji Namkeen also tries to point toward many important social issues like the directionless life post-retirement, the relationship between the old parents and their sons, and the most common patriarchal norms restricting women from following their dreams. It also mentions how the present world is madly addicted to social networks like WhatsApp in a foolish, uneducated manner. 
That said, the film still keeps progressing on a wafer-thin plot, without exploiting the relationships as intensely as it should have. Gently presenting its slice-of-life characters, Sharmaji Namkeen largely relies upon the on-screen charisma of Rishi Kapoor missing the depth of the father-son relationship, with almost no mention of their mother. Plus, the major twist of the film appears to be completely out of sync, contrary to its characterisation. To be specific, since Sharmaji was always shown to be extremely conscious of his self-respect and social image, it was odd to see him behaving in such a ridiculous manner, pleasing the ladies in their party as depicted in the viral video. He was there to cook for the ladies, not entertain them as someone else. Moreover, it also gives you a feeling of having seen something incomplete towards the end, to be honest.
Hence, while Sharmaji Namkeen cannot be called a very well-written film, it certainly can be recommended as a well-performed, delightful swan-song of Rishi Kapoor, who seems to be at amazing ease playing the lead character. Besides, the film also belongs to Paresh Rawal, who beautifully supports the project, making a constant effort, even when the two actors have drastically distinctive personas. 
In all, Sharmaji Namkeen is a perfect tribute as an enjoyable family dramedy having its heart in the right place. So watch it, not only for Rishi Kapoor but for the entire team, who dared to complete it as an experiment bringing back the on-screen magic of the joyful veteran. 
Talking about the rare attempt, I found many quoting it as the first of its kind experiment in Indian Cinema in their reviews and posts on social networks. They all certainly seem to be the ones who consider Hindi cinema as the sole representative of Indian cinema, strangely forgetting the much superior Indian regional language movies. 
Stating the fact, an exactly similar experiment was first done in Marathi cinema in the film Matichya Chuli released in 2006. The veteran Sudhir Joshi passed away during the making of the film and Anand Abhyankar continued in his role. In Matichya Chuli too, an actor comes on the screen, emotionally explaining the change of characters, but the insertion comes around 10 minutes into the film, in front of a freezed backdrop. There are random appearances of two actors in subsequent scenes as seen in Sharmaji Namkeen and this was experimented in Marathi cinema around two decades back (taking a clue from the daily soap TV serials). Possibly there might be similar instances in South and other languages projects in Indian cinema too, I am not aware of.
Coming back to the film, it’s a light-hearted project with many entertaining sequences that deserve to be seen along with your family, remembering the charismatic Rishi Kapoor (forever famous in our friend-circle for his appealing sweaters). So, watch it at the earliest, enjoying a great evening together, having a delicious dinner.
Rating : 3 + 0.5 / 5 (with the additional 0.5 for the brave, experimental team effort) 

Note : Both Sharmaji Namkeen and Matichya Chuli (Marathi) are available at Amazon Prime (with English subtitles)

Tags : SHARMAJI NAMKEEN Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews by Bobby Sing
01 Apr 2022 / Comment ( 0 )
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