Ranbir Kapoor intended to step into Rishi’s shoes
Rookie director Hitesh Bhatia says he thought ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ would be a forgotten dream after actor Rishi Kapoor passed away, until producers assured him of ways to complete the project, one of which was to get veteran Ranbir Kapoor’s son to play his part.
‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ marks the final screen appearance of Rishi Kapoor, who died aged 67 in April 2020 after a two-year long battle with leukemia.
By the time of his death, Bhatia had completed half of the project.
Eventually, actor Paresh Rawal stepped in to wrap up the film, which follows the life of a recently retired man, who discovers his passion for cooking after joining a rowdy kitty circle of women.
In an interview with PTI, the Delhi-based filmmaker said Rishi Kapoor’s passing was shocking and almost sealed the film’s fate.
“It was a difficult time and a deeply emotional time because it came out of nowhere. I had spoken to Rishi ji, very briefly, before he passed away. We were sharing random jokes on WhatsApp, where he He was like, ‘Hey, that should be in the movie.’ It was a normal conversation, where he said, ‘Let’s start the movie soon,’ and then the news came. Nobody was prepared for that.”
After the veteran actor’s death, the director recalled a conversation with his wife, where he told her, “The movie is over, it won’t get made.”
Just when Bhatia had “accepted” the film’s fate, the film’s producers, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani, Honey Trehan and Abhishek Choubey, reached out to him via Zoom call.
“Farhan said, ‘Don’t worry, I know you must be depressed, but we’re going to finish the movie.’ I didn’t understand how would we do that. The producers assured me that they would find a average, they’ll make sure it’s made. I couldn’t process it,” she added.
One of the first options was to cast Ranbir Kapoor to play the lead role, using VFX.
“It was a trip where Ranbir would come in with prosthetics or visual effects, or have another actor (to play the part). It took me a long time to come to terms with the idea that it’s a feasible option that we can do.
“We had a big responsibility on our shoulders because we knew we were presenting his last film, so we have to do a good job for him, his family and his countless fans. It was hard work but I’m glad it all turned out. be set up,” he added.
When asked why it didn’t seem like a feasible option to cast Ranbir in a prosthetic to complete the role, the director said, “We’ve tried that and a lot of things, but things have to work out somehow. way…I’d fail as a filmmaker if you thought of two actors playing the same role ten minutes later.
“You shouldn’t be thinking about Paresh Rawal, Ranbir or Rishi Kapoor. You should just be with the film and focus on the story, be with the characters. It had to be done and no other device gave us that kind of canvas or freedom. That was the main deciding factor,” he added.
The film, backed by Excel Entertainment in association with MacGuffin Pictures, is set to hit Prime Video on March 31.
For Bhatia, his first director’s story comes from a personal space.
When his father, who worked in a commercial department of a private company, retired after more than 30 years of service, Bhatia watched him sitting at home and “interfering in everyone’s life”.
“My mother joked that he should give him a job, otherwise there would be a divorce at this age! From these jokes the journey began, when I started to help my father to do something so that ‘he’s busy. That’s when I realized it was a unique story to tell the world. I’ve talked to a lot of people to realize it’s a common pattern.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about staying relevant. When he was working he had a voice, a purpose, but at home after retirement he had nothing to do.” he added.
After completing the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Supratik Sen, Bhatia wanted someone “larger than life, a food-loving Punjabi man” and found Rishi Kapoor to be the perfect fit.
“When we approached him, he liked the story. But he was himself, he said to me: ‘It’s a good film, your first film, why are you taking me? Cast a bigger actor , who would come see me?’ He was also involved in the script, which many don’t know about.
“He had a major input in the second half of the film, where he pointed out what he thought was weak. When we came back, we realized he was right. We reworked the draft, approached him again and he was ready to shoot,” he added.
“Sharmaji Namkeen” also features longtime Rishi Kapoor co-star Juhi Chawla, actor Suhail Nayyar, Taaruk Raina, Satish Kaushik, Sheeba Chaddha and Isha Talwar.