Namkeen, India, 25 June 1982

Three unmarried sisters live in a remote village in Himachal Pradesh with their old mother, Jugni (Waheeda Rehman), a former nautanki (folk theatre) dancer, who sells spices and takes in boarders to make a living. The three daughters are named like flavors in food. The 'salty' eldest daughter Nimki (Sharmila Tagore), is a reserved spinster, quietly but firmly holding the household together. The 'sweet' middle sister is Mitthu (Shabana Azmi) who cannot speak, but is revealed to be an intelligent and romantic girl. The 'tangy' youngest one is Chinki (Kiran Vairale), a bold and vibrant teenager, who turns out to be more perceptive than one would credit her to be. Their quiet little haven is occasionally threatened by the alcoholic father Kishanlal (Rammohan), a sarangi player who was on the travelling troupe with Jugni, and keeps attempting to reclaim his daughters. She left him years ago to protect her daughters from the life of a nautanki dancer which she always struggled to escape.

All four live in a very old house outside the village. Gerulal (Sanjeev Kumar) is a truck driver who joins this peculiar household for a brief time as a tenant. Initially stunned by their less than friendly ways and unsocial demeanor, he grows to respect the women as he watches the difficulties they struggle with every day. He finds that even among the crisis of money and facilities, all the sisters are capable of maintaining moral values and diginified behavior towards the outer world. He begins to like Nimki. But somehow Mitthu, whom he sympathizes and befriends, seems to have feelings for Gerulal. When Gerulal needs to move on from that region because of work, he proposes to Nimki. But she turns down his proposal citing the responsibility of her sisters and her mother, and asks him to marry Mithu instead - a request he cannot comply with.

Some years later, Gerulal is shocked to find Chinki performing at a village nautanki. From her he learns how drastically things changed after he left - Mitthu lost her mental balance and committed suicide, Jugni died of the shock and Chinki, with not much left to choose from, joined her father's troupe. Gerulal rushes back to Jugni's crumbling old house to find Nimki, alone and aged beyond her years, almost a reflection of her mother. This time, he takes her away with him.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Runtime: 112 Minutes
  • Director: Gulzar
  • Awards: 1983 - National Film Awards Best Audiography: Essabhai M. Suratwala, 1983: Filmfare Award Best Story: Samaresh Basu, 1983: Filmfare Awards Best Art Direction: Ajit Banerjee


Namkeen (Devanāgarī: नमकीन, English: Salty), 1982 Hindi film, directed by Gulzar, with Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi and Waheeda Rehman as leads. It was yet another movie by Gulzar made on some very sensitive but untouched aspects of Indian society especially in rural areas. The story Akal Basant was by Samaresh Basu on whose story, Gulzar had previously made Kitaab (1977).

The film won the National Film Awards in 1983 for Best Audiography for Essabhai M. Suratwala, while Samresh Basu won the Filmfare Award for Best Story. Waheeda Rehman and Kiran Vairale received Filmfare Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, which they lost to Supriya Pathak in Bazaar.