“Rishi Kapoor insisted on a close-up, he didn’t know it would be his last scene”: director of Sharmaji Namkeen
Sharmaji Namkeen director Hitesh Bhatia called the film a “roller coaster ride” – from the happy moments to the heartbreaking news of Rishi Kapoor’s death, the film saw every situation one can imagine. “When Chintu Ji passed away, on some level the thought that this movie is now over and it won’t be over was staring at me. There was just no precedent for finishing this movie. So from that thinking about the end of the movie and today it’s about to be released, it’s honestly a dream come true. These things just don’t happen,” Bhatia told indianexpress.com.
The director recalled that putting the film together after Rishi Kapoor’s death was emotional and “very difficult”. However, it is Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani who gave him the strength and the hope that this film will see the day of its release.
“A few days after Rishi Kapoor died, Farhan and Ritesh called me and told me not to worry. They said, ‘We’re going to finish the movie. We will free him.’ But I was like, he (Rishi Kapoor) is no more. In my head, the movie has just been finished because how will you finish this movie when it’s gone. But they gave me the strength to understand this. So we tried a lot of things from his son Ranbir Kapoor coming into the role to taking the help of VFX and then ultimately picking Paresh Rawal for the role. It took me a long time to believe we could finish this movie,” he said, adding that everyone came together with a “very different energy.”
“We missed Chintu ji but we didn’t want his last film to disappear. Personally, as a director and screenwriter, this film is close to my heart. But the beauty was that everyone, from the producer to the technicians, came together to make this movie a reality, which became my strength,” he added.
When asked if there was ever an option to remake the film entirely, Hitesh replied, “If we cast another actor and do the whole film again, it won’t remain Rishi Kapoor’s last film.” He said the need to stay true to the film led them to come up with different ideas. He revealed that at some point they also thought of rope-roping Ranbir Kapoor to step into Rishi Kapoor’s shoes.
“This film has its own life. We wanted to stay true to what we started. There was an emotional commitment to ourselves, Ranbir Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor. Ranbir, Farhan, and Ritesh were very clear that this was Chintu ji’s final film, so the idea of Ranbir donning prosthetics and coming aboard to complete the film was considered first. We seriously considered this, but it came to nothing,” Hitesh said.
Eventually, Paresh Rawal joined the team to complete the film. According to the director, he was on board within 10 to 15 minutes of the film being offered to him.
“When Pareshji came on board it was more because of him than me. As an actor it’s a very tough call because it’s nothing like him or any of us did before. Not sure if this will all end up making sense or looking good. But Pareshji, early on, decided he believed in the script and really liked it. He also came from an emotional point that this was Chintu ji’s last film. Within 10-15 minutes he was on board. Again, working with him was pure bliss. He made the character his own. He didn’t explained how to approach it, but everything worked out fine in the end,” Hitesh revealed.
As the conversation continued, Hitesh remembered Rishi Kapoor’s last scene. “The last scene we shot with Chintu ji was a kulfi scene. And it’s such an amazing sequence to remember. Speaking of which, Hitesh said he was okay with the shot and wanted to wrap it up, but Rishi Kapoor insisted on doing his close-up.
“The last picture he ever took, I didn’t want to do a close-up. I was like, ‘We don’t need the close-up. We’re done with the scene. Let’s wrap it up. Chintu Ji , who never insists, wanted me to take the close-up because he thought it would add to the scene. The light was going badly, so he asked the DOP to make the close-up happen no matter what. And finally, we made the plan, not knowing that it will be the last plan of his life,” Hitesh choked out as he recalled the scene.
Sharmaji Namkeen is set to be released on Amazon Prime Video on March 31, but Rishi Kapoor’s family members – Ranbir Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor and Riddhima Kapoor – watched the film at a special screening held in Mumbai.
“They were very emotional,” the director said, adding, “When we started working on the film with Pareshji, we had no idea how the film was going to take shape. the movie as a whole, you don’t know if it works or if it makes sense. In that way, we had a responsibility to make a decent and respectable movie. We didn’t want it to become a failed experiment. In that sense, I was a little worried about how the family would feel and how the movie would end up shaping up. But they all really loved it, especially Ranbir and Neetu ji. All of them were very moved by it. see on screen for the last time.
The director said he was lucky that Juhi Chawla and Rishi Kapoor agreed to star in Sharmaji Namkeen. “The role required the skills they bring to the table. I would have done anything for them to say yes to the film. I was just lucky that both of them liked the script and were excited,” he said, describing the film as a “family artist,” which is “indeed a tribute to him.” .
“When you see the film, you will know that despite the obstacles and difficulties, everyone came together to complete this film because of him. This is indeed a role that was tailor-made for him. Everyone I know, without me saying it, knew the script belonged to him,” he concluded.
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