Brij Gopal Sharma, played by Paresh Rawal, is sitting in a vast warehouse, distracted by something. He misses the announcement when the speaker on stage invites him up to collect a commemorative gift and bouquet of flowers. Sharma has been given VRS. His farewell speech is bittersweet. Sharmaji is forlorn, returning home with just two token gifts representing years of loyal service in lower management.
Director Hitesh Bhatia then fast-forwards to four months and 13 days later. It’s a normal morning in the Sharma household. Rinku (Suhail Nayyar) and Vincy (Taaruk Raina) are getting ready to get to office and dance practice respectively. Sharma—now played by Rishi Kapoor and Rawal—is cooking breakfast, packing tiffin boxes for his sons and clearing up. Retirement has made this single parent a very bored and unappreciated housekeeper.
He meets his friends on the rooftops of their Delhi homes. They try to encourage him to take up hobbies—Zumba, perhaps, or open a fast-food stall. Staring down a dark tunnel of ennui and community disdain for the kind of activities men should or may participate in, Sharma finds himself slip into a double life.
A dab hand in the kitchen, he has a flair for cooking. This turns into a flourishing trade where he finds a loyal clientele among a kitty party group, which includes ladies who lunch played by Juhi Chawla, Sheeba Chaddha and Ayesha Raza, among others. New friends, new opportunities, a sense of purpose elevate Sharma’s mood, as long as his sons don’t find out.
Alongside, an oft-explored theme of real estate related corruption and aspirational living play out through Rinku, who hopes to upscale his life and marry his sweetheart Urmi (Isha Talwar).
Sharmaji Namkeen (Amazon Prime Video) is a mildly spiced feelgood film that cheers for its aging parents who grapple to hold on to their value in the home and family as their children begin to take on decision-making roles.
The strength of the film lies in the seamless shifts between the two Sharmas. Even though their pitch and moods are not always consistent, yet it takes just one scene to accept two different actors playing the same character, bonded by the signature sweater, scarf and attaché case. The risk of using an unconventional tag-team device pays off and Rawal brings his own piquancy to the part. His slouch and slight grouchiness juxtaposes Kapoor’s avuncular charm.
Ranbir Kapoor’s preface to the movie explains the use of two actors and why his father’s last film needed to be completed. Ending with outtakes, as homage to Rishi Kapoor who passed away in 2020, Sharmaji Namkeen is a warm farewell to the former romantic hero who started out casually tying his sweater around his shoulders and is now seen wearing snug V-neck sweaters.