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Two actors, 1 role – Sharmaji Namkeen is a masterclass between Rishi Kapoor & Paresh Rawal

After Rishi Kapoor’s death, Paresh Rawal took over the titular role in Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ – a rarity in Indian cinema.

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After the opening credits of Sharmaji Namkeen on Amazon Prime Video, a gleeful Ranbir Kapoor pops up to note the rarity in Indian cinema — two actors playing the same character in a film — and also to thank Paresh Rawal for stepping in to play the titular role in the film after Rishi Kapoor’s demise. At first, you suspect that, perhaps, Sharmaji Namkeen is a posthumous tribute to the veteran actor with an overarching theme of ‘the show must go on’. But on the contrary, it makes for a fine piece of craft and heart-warming slice of life story, which also happens to be a pleasant jugalbandi between the two stalwarts.

Brij Gopal Sharma — played by both Kapoor and Rawal interchangeably across the film — is a 58-year-old widower with two children, staying in West Delhi’s Subhash Nagar. He has recently retired (voluntary retirement, as he keeps clarifying at different junctures of the film) from his sales job at Madhuban Appliances after 31 years. In his spare time, he loves to cook, eat and travel around alone. If this reads like Sharmaji’s resume, congratulations, you are absolutely right.

Post-retirement life does not interest him, and Sharma is constantly looking for something to do. In one of the early scenes, his elder son (played by Suhail Nayyar) says, “Ek taraf Kejriwal hai, ek taraf aap ho… kabhi paani, parking, colony ka gate… roz koi kalesh dhund lete ho (On one side, there’s Kejriwal and on the other, there’s you… you find something to fuss over every day)”. A hat-tip to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s early ‘activist-turned-chief minister’ days and his perpetual tussle with the Lieutenant Governor, and central government by extension.

As the page-long resume does not produce any fruitful results, Sharma’s love for cooking and eating helps him find ‘joy’ in the most unexpected situations. The film chronicles Sharma’s journey to find purpose and happiness in a post 9-to-5 life.


Also read: SS Rajamouli’s RRR is everything you expect it to be – freedom struggle on Baahubali scale


Two actors, one Sharmaji

Sharma is a quintessential middle-class man from West Delhi (there are shades of Do Dooni Chaar’s Santosh Duggal in him). Kapoor’s swansong performance will only aid the legendary actor’s memory and ability to connect with audiences of all ages.

Rawal, who stepped in after Kapoor’s death following a two-year-long battle with leukemia, needs no introduction. He is a fine actor who rarely misses a note.

Kapoor and Rawal are both legendary in their own right but sometimes watching the two actors come and go in adjacent scenes can be a little jarring. As Sharmaji Namkeen rolls on, you get used to it. And that is not because of my fondness for the two actors. They both bring different facets of Sharma to the screen, which makes it palatable and also helps us understand him better.

Kapoor’s Sharma looks vulnerable, tussling with self-doubt and societal stigma attached to his choices. The moments where he stands up for himself are endearing to watch. On some occasions, he is goofy and funny.

As for Rawal’s Sharma, he appears more confident and in control of his position and does, occasionally, struggle with self-doubt. His body language and demeanor appear more confrontational.

But somehow the duality of performances helps director Hitesh Bhatia stitch a comprehensive and exhaustive profile of Sharma. Sitting across your screen, you would find yourself smiling and marveling at the two renowned actors’ brilliance.


Also read: Loose plot, tight acting: In Amazon Prime’s Jalsa, Shefali Shah outshines Vidya Balan


Stellar cast, crew and script

Juhi Chawla, Satish Kaushik, Sheeba Chaddha, and Ayesha Raza Mishra — these names when listed as part of any ensemble cast are low-key guarantee of terrific performances. Sharmaji Namkeen is no exception.

Satish Kaushik plays Sharma’s confidant and friend who also describes himself as his “manager” when the latter forays into becoming a ‘specialist cook’ for a bunch of elite women organising regular kitty parties in South Delhi.

Led by the likes of Juhi Chawla and Sheeba Chaddha, the women get together to have a good time together feasting on Sharma’s delectable menu. But as opposed to the stereotype, they are more humane, loyal and are Sharma’s biggest cheerleaders.

Suhail Nayyar and Taaruk Raina who play Sharma’s children are also not straight-up evil, inconsiderate and unkind — much like what we saw in Baghban (2003), a film referenced multiple times in the film. Not to say they are goody two shoes. They are like how most of us turn out to be. They are embarrassed by their father’s eccentric career choices and wonder ‘log kya kahenge’ (what will people say). But on some level, they also understand where he might be coming from but expressing that to their parent is often a challenge.

A special mention to the crew of the film — be it the people from production design, costume, makeup, or the technical staff — who make the transition of Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal as B.G. Sharma look seamless. The shooting had come to halt after Kapoor was diagnosed with cancer, only resume two years later with Rawal as the lead. But as you watch the film, the gap never makes an appearance.

Thanks to director Hitesh Bhatia, Sharmaji Namkeen will be remembered for just more than Rishi Kapoor’s swansong. It is a delicacy that leaves you satisfied and wanting for more.

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After the opening credits of Sharmaji Namkeen on Amazon Prime Video, a gleeful Ranbir Kapoor pops up to note the rarity in Indian cinema — two actors playing the same character in a film — and also to thank Paresh Rawal for stepping in to play the titular...Two actors, 1 role – Sharmaji Namkeen is a masterclass between Rishi Kapoor & Paresh Rawal
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