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“The film is a “Rishi Kapoor Film” and my goal was to finish what he started” says Paresh Rawal

Sharmaji Namkeen, well…the name says it all. While the film made our mouths water thanks to Sharmaji’s passion, it also made our hearts full with love, gratitude and compassion. Namkeeniyat and emotions are the backbone of the film, but it is the Late Rishi Kapoor along with his talented co-stars who made it even more special. However, due to Rishi ji’s unfortunate demise, veteran actor Paresh Rawal stepped in and completed the project. It’s for the first time that Hindi cinema witnessed two phenomenal actors playing one character effortlessly. Keeping Rishi ji’s flamboyant persona alive with a pinch of originality, Paresh Rawal donned the role of Sharmaji with grace. Ahead of the World Television Premiere of Sharmaji Namkeen on &pictures on 30th July at 8pm, Paresh Rawal takes us through his journey.

The world was taken aback with the tragic demise of Rishi ji and you were asked to fill in for him, how did you feel?
I’ve truly admired Rishi ji’s work; how he would get into the skin of the character. I felt honored when I was asked to fill in for him. Sharmaji’s character was tailor made for Rishi Kapoor, picking up mid-way was quite challenging, actually. On one hand we were picking things up on set with a heavy heart, while on the other hand, this is the first time I have done something like this so it really nourished my craft. For the longest time, I was looking for opportunities to work with the makers of Sharmaji Namkeen, when they thought of me to take over, I felt responsible in a way. It is rare in Bollywood that two actors play the same role and the opportunity was given to me, it made it all the more memorable.

The character, Sharmaji was already established, how did you find your way into the character?
Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t want to play with the originality of Rishi ji’s portrayal of Sharmaji. You know, he added a flair of namkeeniyat to this character that I just cannot match. So, my plan was to capture the emotion and not imitate his acting. I dug deep into the psyche of the story and the characters so I don’t end up disrupting the visual flow of the audience. And I’m grateful to the makers and the cast who helped me thoroughly through this procedure. The film is a “Rishi Kapoor Film” and my goal was to finish what he started without taking away the essence of Rishi ji.

Did you find any similarities between you and Sharma ji?
On the contrary, Rishi Ji was a true-blue foodie who could eat as much as he could cook and I, on the other hand, can only manage to boil water. But, after the shoot, I have developed some sense of cooking…all thanks to Sharmaji Namkeen. Except for cooking, I think I share his positive outlook towards life, how passion transcends all barriers.

Any fond memories of you and Rishi ji that raced your mind during the making of the film?
I remember the actor in me being greedy for this role when the makers came to me. Rishi and I have worked in a couple of films together; our journey dates well back into the late 80’s. He was always a no-filter and fun person; somebody you’d like to be around. During his directorial debut – Aa Ab Laut Chalein, I saw a whole different side to him. While we collaborated on light-hearted drama/ comedy films, we always talked about taking on complex characters and plot lines where we could get to know each other better as colleagues and as an individual.

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