Prime Video’s Sharmaji Namkeen captures the tale of freshly retired widower, B.G. Sharma, who finds an unlikely passion in cooking after being bored of life. The 58-year-old then goes on a journey of self-discovery as he starts cooking in parties, hiding from his disapproving elder son.
The film kicks off with Brij Gopal Sharma aka Sharmaji being forced into retirement by the appliances company he’s worked at for years. Unable to accept post-retirement life and the humdrum it brings along, he unwillingly passes time by watching TV, fixing water tanks, walking in parks with his fellow retirees near his New Delhi home, among other things.
The one thing he enjoys a lot is cooking hearty and decedent meals for his two sons — the corporate jobber Rinku (Suhail Nayyar) and the college going Vincy (Taaruk Raina). When a friend of his, Mr. Chaddha, gets him an offer to cook for a ladies get together, his fortunes flip.
Sharmaji, although initially hesitant, becomes a beloved member of the ladies’ gang and starts cooking for them at kitty parties. They even add him to their WhatsApp group. However, he keeps this part of his life a secret from his sons until one day, a video of him on Facebook playing charades with the ladies is ousted by one of Sharmaji’s relative at his own birthday party.
What follows is a complicated confrontation between Rinku and his dad that is further soured by a financial fix that the family has to get itself out of.
Both Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal have played the lead character due the former’s unfortunate demise during the film’s production and both bring their unique quirks and spins to the character.
The Bollywood veterans play the 58-year-old retiree with utmost conviction and get into the skin of this character who struggles to follow the path he wants to, owing to society’s restrictions. There isn’t a single scene of theirs where they don’t steal the show with their exceptional emotional range.
There are subtle differences in their performances obviously with Kapoor being louder, more physical and worn out of the two but at no point does the switch affect the narrative’s flow. However, it is also Kapoor’s performance that somehow holds more weight, maybe due to this being his final film.
The supporting cast is brilliant as well. It is a pleasant surprise to see Juhi Chawla on screen again. Her character, Veena, is perfect as the voice of reason for Sharmaji as she has a similar character background. Furthermore, she lights up all her scenes with her elegant charm and stellar acting chops.
Suhail Nayyar and Taaruk Raina are a treat as the young sons of a single Punjabi father. Their chemistry with both Kapoor and Rawal is outstanding and you can relate every aspect of their relationship to an actual North Indian family.
Nayyar as the controlling elder son is particularly brilliant, showcasing his personal struggles blended with concern for his father in an expert manner.
Other actors like Satish Kaushik, Sheeba Chaddha, Parmeet Sethi, and more are vital parts of the story and put their best step forward with limited screen time.
Sharmaji Namkeen is one of those rare comedy drama films that leave you with a lot to think about. This coming-of-age tale presents the struggles of a lonely male retiree and relates it to the pressures women face in a patriarchal society.
B.G. Sharma’s inclusion in a middle aged all female group is a genius way to commentate on society’s double standards when it comes to restricting people from following their passions regardless of their sex and gender. It also talks about prioritising one’s own interests above their children and family, something that is essential for everyone at some point.
Furthermore, it subtly provides perspectives on everyone’s individual struggles in a family. With Rinku’s flat problem, the narrative explains that his controlling nature comes from the fact that he is the breadwinner of the family who needs to cater to expectations. Meanwhile, Vincy being the younger one is quick to stand up for his father.
However, despite housing such powerful messages and themes, Sharmaji Namkeen is not preachy even for a single frame and there are no outright villains in the story. It does its thing by letting the plot flow into relatable situations and allows the viewers to interpret it in their own way.
The comedy is also spread well across the film. It is by no means a laugh riot but it is enough to keep you grossly entertained. The direction by Hitesh Bhatia is commendable as he controls the pace well and doesn’t allow the film to turn chaotic. Also, kudos to the actors who maintain their performances as scenes shift between Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. Except for the obvious change in actors, there is zero inconsistency.
The music by Sneha Khanwalkar as well is the perfect sprinkle of spice to Sharmaji Namkeen. The catchy peppy numbers blended with mellow ones add another layer of flavour to the film.
Lastly, if you are a foodie then the cooking scenes featuring scrumptious street food dishes are a sight to behold.
There is hardly anything to point out in the negatives as Sharmaji Namkeen is just that good of a film.
The only nitpick that can be made is that there could have probably been a more satisfying conclusion to the corrupt builder and stuck flat situation, but owing to its realism, it is understandable why the director chose to end the film the way it did.
Sharmaji Namkeen is an outright entertainer and is an absolute must-watch. With the film’s expert ability to tackle themes like family dynamics, coexistence, self-love, retirement, patriarchy, and more, it deserves all your attention. Furthermore, this is the late Rishi Kapoor’s final performance so watch it when you get the chance.