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“Sharmaji Namkeen is Rishiji’s film. I am just there to complete his dream,” says late actor Rishi Kapoor’s co-star Paresh Rawal

Paresh Rawal is indisputably one of our finest actors. Of late, we have been seeing less of him on screen. That is because Paresh is being extra-selective. He has made one exception though; Paresh will be seen in Amazon’s Sharmaji Namkeen completing the scenes Rishi Kapoor left undone. It is an unprecedented experiment. Paresh tells Subhash K Jha why he is confident it will work.

Pareshji, how and why did you agree to fill in for Rishi Kapoor?
It was a very strange kind of relay race. I had to take up the character from he left it off. It was a very emotional moment for me. I cannot look at the experience in practical terms. It is the last film by one of my favourite co-stars. And what a film it is for any actor! And for an actor to depart without completing it….baap re baap! It’s a nightmare.

What made you agree to do the film?
Firstly, it was to ensure that Chintuji’s last film was somehow completed. Also, I felt truly concerned for the producers. They were stuck in an awful situation when I decided to step in. They wanted to complete the film, and as an actor, I did not want to hesitate.

The fact that something like this, with two actors playing the same role in one film, has not been done before, did that weigh on your mind?
I wasn’t even thinking along those lines. I was very confident about the producer’s intention. I knew he was not only going to complete the film but he was also going to make sure that it was released. This meant he had a lot of expenses to bear, and I was willing to take the risk for his sake. It was my duty as an actor to support him.

Did you know Rishi Kapoor well?
Oh, yes. I was in his only directorial venture Aa Ab Laut Chalen. We worked together on some films like Damini and another one directed by Kalpatru (Rishta Ho Toh Aisa) and Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi. Rishiji was the finest human being I have come across. I wanted to make sure that I completed his film without vandalizing or any disrupting his presence. I mean Sharmaji Namkeen is Rishiji’s film. I am just there to complete his dream.

But to synchronize his personality and acting style with yours?
It was a challenge for sure. But I didn’t try to synchronize my acting with his. That would have been mimicry. By doing so I didn’t want to reduce the importance of Rishiji’s performance. I have gone with the tensions of the character and have not tried to imitate Rishi. Even if I tried I could not have done it. There is a ‘Punjabiyat’ about Rishiji that would be impossible for me to imbibe. That ‘Punjabiyat’ runs in every Punjabi’s blood and in their skin tone. It would have looked very unbecoming for me to try to capture his personality.

Are you confident that the audience will accept this experiment?
I will tell you one thing, Subhashji. The script is so strong that the audience will not even notice that two different actors are playing Sharmaji. Kahaani mein itna dum hai. No one will bother. I know it will require the highest degree of suspension of disbelief from the audience, which I am sure they are willing to extend.

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