On January 9, 2018, producer Honey Trehan along with debutant director Hitesh Bhatia reached at the residence of Rishi Kapoor for a script-narration of their upcoming film, “Sharmaji Namkeen”. The legendry actor is excited on hearing the script, he decides to sign the film.
“I am that youngster who watched, admired and loved Rishiji on-screen. There are several films that I call my favourite, and ‘Chandni’ always topped the list. So it was nostalgia and excitement rolled into one when I went to narrate the film and cast him in the project,” recalled Honey, one of the producers of the film along with Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, while speaking to IANS.
Trehan recalls that Kapoor fell sick within a few days after the start of shooting, and he flew to the US for his treatment. “We stopped the film and waited for him to come back. He is the DNA of the film and we cannot imagine anyone else to play Sharmaji. They stayed in touch with him and he was so eager to come back and get on to the film set. So naturally, when things started rolling, his energy and high professionalism were driving us,” said the producer.
After Kapoor returned to India, shooting was scheduled to resume on January 15, 2020, in Delhi. Unfortunately, Kapoor lost his sister Ritu Nanda, and on January 14 had to travel to Delhi to attend to his family amid emotional crisis. Keeping the situation in mind, the producers decided to reschedule the shooting.
“However Rishiji said, ‘bakwas maat karo, what happened is personal but work is my profession. I am equally responsible for both. The show must go on. This is what my father taught me’. You see, under such circumstances where he lost his sister, he did not forget the high professional value that he learnt from Raj Kapoor Saab. Rishi Sir knew that the responsibility of the film is on his shoulder as he played the title role of the film. He knew that the unit will suffer if we stop the shooting and there comes his spirit and energy to encourage us saying, ‘the show must go on, mujhe call time bataao’,” Trehan recalled.
Remembering the affectionate nature of the legendry actor, he added: “On January 15 in the Delhi winter, our call time was 9 am. When I reached the set around 8:45 am, I find him ready — not even sitting in his vanity but standing there, on the set! He smiled at me saying, ‘Tu T-shirt pehna hai, thand nehi lagti? Jacket kyun nahin pehna?’ That’s Rishi Kapoor for you. Loving, affectionate towards everyone around him.” “Sharmaji Namkeen” also features Juhi Chawla.
Does he feel the pressure of the fact that this will be counted as Rishi Kapoor’s last film? “A film with Rishi Kapoor is always special. But this one is ‘sadly’ special, and this is not why a film should be special. Hitesh and I are really not in the frame of mind to think about how we will finish the film. We need time. We are sad, deeply sad” Honey signed off.