From gorging on lip-smacking samosas to heart-shaped cutlets among many other mouth-watering delicacies, ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ is a film that makes one hungrier, agrees promising young actor and food impresario Sanjay Raina’s son, Taaruk Raina, who got a chance to share screen space with late veteran actor and a “complete foodie” Rishi Kapoor.
Going back in time and recalling the days of shooting for the film, Taaruk, who made his mark in Lionsgate Play’s college life drama ‘Jugaadistan’ and the coming-of-age romantic comedy ‘Mismatched’ (Netflix), fondly reminisced about how the food spread out on the table helped him to connect with the two acclaimed stars of the film — Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal.
“Rishi Kapoorji was a massive foodie. You could talk to him about food for hours. So, I think it helped. Food was the central topic all the time. It made us blend easily,” Taaruk, who plays Vincy Sharma, the Rishi Kapoor character’s son, said.
Rishi Kapoor played Brij Mohan Sharma, a widower laid off from his job who discovers (and so does an admiring world) his talent for cooking. Other veteran actors
Food runs in Taaruk’s DNA. His father, who first gained prominence in the 1990s as an Indipopper, is regarded as one of the finest exponents of Kashmiri cuisine, which he serves at his restaurant Mealability in the heart of Lutyens’s Delhi.
“The film makes you hungrier,” Taaruk recalled about ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ in his conversation. “Everything that was shot was so beautifully done. Everything looked so appetising. Food was at the centre of the film. There was a lot of eating on sets. We were eating in almost every scene and there was a lot of food involved.”
For a young and talented actor, though, it was not only the experience of eating a lot of good food that made ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’, which is streaming on Prime Video, so special.
The actor still has to pinch himself to believe that he really got to share screen space with Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal, who completed Kapoor’s role after his death in 2020.
“It was surreal,” Taaruk said. “To be honest, it didn’t seem real when I was doing it. They both are amazing performers and they made our lives easier. They are so experienced and helped us through things.”
The fresh-faced, bright-eyed actor said: “Rishiji was an amazing performer and on the basis of his energy you could become a better version of yourself. Same for Pareshji. He made things so easy for us that we didn’t have to try to do much. It was happening organically.”
The Hitesh Bhatia film does have an “emotional value” for him, Taaruk said. “It was Rishi Kapoor’s last film. So, of course, the film has a massive emotional value, apart from just the journey of the film and the time and effort it took.” Caught between the two Covid-19 lockdowns and Rishi Kapoor’s death, it took more than four years for the film to start streaming.
Taaruk added: “The fact that Pareshji completed the film shows how much emotion went into making it. It was personal to everyone. So, I think that’s why the steps that were taken were taken.”
Was it difficult for a South Delhi guy to imbibe the West Delhi culture, which oozes out of the film? Pat came the reply: “West Delhi isn’t far from where I grew up. It wasn’t very difficult for me, being from Delhi, to adjust to a film which is all about Delhi’s culture.”
And then he added as an afterthought: “I think there’s a bit of West Delhi in all of us. It was fun. It wasn’t far from what I was used to in my life. It wasn’t that difficult.”
Now that the film is streaming, Taaruk can take the liberty of looking back at his creative journey and talking about how ‘Mismatched’ helped him gain recognition.
“After ‘Mismatched’, I got a lot more recognition because the show was a success,” Taaruk said. “That was a big step in my career. It made the most difference. I did it while ‘Sharmaji’ was still incomplete. We started working on the film four and half years ago. It went through so many difficulties and obstacles.”
Taaruk will be seen next on ‘Mismatched’ Season 2, which will also stream on Netflix.
–By Durga Chakravarty