Paresh Rawal is, without a doubt, one of our most talented actors. We’ve been seeing less of him on screen lately. This is due to Paresh’s extreme prudence. However, Paresh will appear in Amazon’s Sharmaji Namkeen, where he will finish the portions that Rishi Kapoor left unfinished. It’s a one-of-a-kind experiment, and Paresh explains to Subhash K Jha why he believes it will succeed.
Pareshji, Why did you accept standing in for Rishi Kapoor, and how did you decide?
It was an unusual type of relay race. I had to pick up where he left off with the character. It was a very moving experience for me. I’m unable to put the experience into context. It’s one of my favourite co-stars’ final films. And what a film for any actor to be a part of! And for an actor to leave before finishing it…baap re baap! It’s a complete nightmare.
Did it bother you that something like this had never been done before, with two actors portraying the same character in a single film?
I hadn’t even considered that possibility. I had a lot of faith in the producer’s intentions, and I was confident that he would finish the picture and ensure that it was released. This meant he’d have a lot of bills to pay, and I was willing to risk it for his sake. As an actor, it was my responsibility to back him up.
Are you familiar with Rishi Kapoor?
Yes, of course. I appeared in his only film, Aa Ab Laut Chalen. We collaborated on films like Damini, Rishta Ho Toh Aisa, and Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi, directed by Kalpatru. Rishiji was the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. I wanted to make sure I finished his film without vandalising it or causing him any inconvenience. Sharmaji Namkeen, after all, is Rishiji’s flick, and I’m only here to help him realise his dream.
But how do you match his personality and acting style to your own?
It was, without a doubt, a difficult task. But I didn’t try to match my performance to his, which would have been a case of impersonation. I didn’t want to diminish the significance of Rishiji’s performance by doing so. I went with the character’s stresses rather than trying to replicate Rishi. I couldn’t have done it even if I tried. Rishiji has a ‘Punjabiyat’ about him that I couldn’t possibly absorb. Every Punjabi’s blood and skin tone is tinged with ‘Punjabiyat.’ Attempting to capture his personality would have been very inappropriate.
Are you convinced that the audience will accept this experiment?
Subhashji, I’ll tell you something. The writing is so good that the audience won’t even know that two separate performers play Sharmaji. Itna dum hai kahaani mein. No one is going to bother, and I know it will necessitate the audience’s most complete suspension of disbelief, which I am confident they will grant.