Rishi Kapoor’s excellent performance in “Sharmaji Namkeen” makes an unforgettable Swansong

Brij Gopal Sharma (Rishi Kapoor / Paresh Rawal) wants a job. Exciting work, meaningful work. On many restless mornings, any work.

He recently voluntarily retired from a company called Madhuban. His wife is dead. His eldest son, Sandeep (Suhail Nayyar), has a comfortable corporate job. His youngest son, Vincy (Taaruk Raina), is studying BCom. Sandeep is busy with his girlfriend (Isha Talwar) and Vincy is dancing, leaving their father with WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts and TV series. For someone who has lived his whole life as a caregiver – so much so that he is not identified by his name, but by his last name, “Mr Sharma” – he now feels ignorant and lost, desperate to find a new identity, something that it can really belong to him. .

Hitesh Bhatia’s Sharmaji Namkeen, the broadcast on Amazon Prime Video, starts where many Hindi movies end. Because the question here is not how to live with others – say, a romantic partner or a family – but yourself. The drama also tells a parallel story of class division. Mr Sharma lives in a cramped house in West Delhi. His friends are made up of people like him, noisy Punjabi men. It’s a small simple life – the only life he has ever known. Sandeep, on the other hand, wants to buy a plush apartment in a high-rise Gurgaon. His father, his current life, embarrasses him.

If Sandeep wants to avoid his past, then Mr. Sharma wants to preserve his past. It just takes a little excuse to talk about Madhuban – “it had a monopoly on home appliances” – and how it mattered to the company (“They called me a glamorous jewel”). Mr. Sarma is trying to find his story in the final titles – a trapped passenger on a platform where no train can reach. But without knowing it, he lived for himself, doing something he loved most: cooking. His friend (Satish Kaushik) offers a solution: to cook for a local religious gathering. It turned out to be a lie, as Mr. Sarma shows up to cook for… a kitten party. Women love food – one of them, Veena (Juhi Chawla), even enjoys his company – and call him over and over again.

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Like Mr. Sharma, this drama is quietly ambitious – an ambition that stems from despair. Kapoor died before filming was completed, leaving the creators embarrassed. They agreed on a choice that almost never happens in cinema: asking a different actor, Rawal, to complete the rest of the scenes. This is not a trick. the manufacturers do not intend to shock us. A small message from Ranbir Kapoor opens the film, remembers his father and thanks Rawal.

I prepared myself for an initial turbulent experience, but the transition did not matter at all. Rawal is not trying anything fancy – he is not trying to behave like Kapoor. Staying true to himself, a pattern that also updates the film, nails the role. Clever writing – accumulating tiny details, observing the details of India’s urban life – helps him. Bhatia, who co-wrote the script, understands the authoritarian and suffocating nature of Indian families, who do not hesitate to humiliate their own, while maintaining humor and “decency”.

It also establishes the central conflict: Mr Sharma’s embarrassment to reveal his true calling. His reluctance also stems from the perception of work – something associated with the “less skilled” workers, who carry the stain of manual labor – that degrades him to a lower class (and caste). But he is as helpless as a man in love and the film fulfills his dream. When she cooks for the kitten’s first party, the camera closes inside the που heart-shaped fries she has made. He finally found what he was looking for – “apna kaam”- the work that completes it, the work where one is not one’s father or subordinate, where it is not Mr. Sarma, a social function, but Bridge, a unique person.

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Sharmaji Namkeen it can be seamlessly deep without being moral or boring. The slice of-life style, full of comedy, breaks down the disgusting hierarchies of the Indian middle class. There is also a neat narrative reversal that functions as a social commentary. At the beginning of the film, Sandeep and Vincy do not have time for Mr Sharma – their flights are about to take off, his own landed. But when he starts cooking for different kitten parties – to make new friends, to find new joys – he he has no time for his children. When Sandeep discovers his secret, he criticizes Mr. Sharma as a strict father. The bottom line is this: know your limits, do what you are told – or, in other words, do not be yourself, regardless of your age.

However, despite these advantages, the film seems to contradict itself sporadically, succumbing to the very hierarchy it comments on. Mr. Sharma defends his inclination by saying, “I am a cook and not a waiter” – as if he were the latter would diminish his value. When Sandeep finally finds out, he says, “Just because you’re bored, are you going to start washing dishes in people’s homes?” Mr. Sharma is rude to his colleagues, the domestic helpers of his clients. When Veena offers to leave him home, he emphasizes that he usually brings his car with him – another reference to his elevated position in the classroom, implying that he is “different” from other similar workers. These pieces stand out in an otherwise nice and polite film – especially because they come from Mr. Sarma (and, sometimes, from his son, whose class is out of control). His last section, also focusing on a fight and a police station, becomes funny through fictional writing.

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But my constant feelings were not connected with these conversations, but with Kapoor’s excellent performance, an unforgettable swan song. The actor really flourished in his final phase, and you can see those characteristics that helped him play this role as well: a unique confusion and disorientation – very Indian, very old school – that makes him cute, an effortless absorption of calm humiliation that The ‘t blow up still records passion, a clever ability for everyday humor.

His last scene in the film – his last appearance in the cinema – includes this avatar. Having dinner with Sandip’s future in-laws, Mr. Sarma feels out of place in a fancy house in Gurgaon, only to discover that his son’s new apartment has been in trouble for some time. He sits there quietly, snacking on food – maintaining the pretense that he knew it long ago – painting the image of a lost, consumable man. It’s a good scene, but Kapoor makes it great – a fake smile, a rigid frame, a slanted look. At that moment, you see an actor making his character act. It feels like Kapoor is paying homage to the performance itself: It may not be close, but its acting will.

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