Exclusive: Actor Jim Sarbh talks about Made In Heaven, his role in Bejoy Nambiar's Flip and making it to Sundance
Jim Sarbh might be a lot of things, but he certainly cannot be called predictable. One has to be careful as you speak with him, as it isn’t easy to guess how he will react. But like him or not, though, he can’t be dismissed — be it as Malik Kafur in Padmaavat or more recently in the Amazon Prime web series, Made in Heaven. He is uninhibited in his portrayal of Adil, a rich, entitled brat of a businessman. “People couldn’t quite write off Adil’s character, despite the fact that he can be quite obnoxious, and I appreciated that,” says the Mumbai-born actor. After Season One ended with Tara’s (Sobhita Dhulipala) gut-wrenching face-off with her on-screen husband, Adil, the fans have been hoping for a Season Two. When we ask him if that’s happening, he reveals, “They’re writing! I hope I’m in it.”
Flip the light fantastic
Apart from the much-talked-about series by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, the Neerja actor delivered a memorable performance in one of the episodes of director Bejoy Nambiar’s web series, Flip, which was recently released on Eros Now. As Keki, he tries to win a lost battle, most of the times bound to a wheelchair, as he plays the role of a paralysed patient. “The limitation meant that I essentially had my voice and eyes to express, and those are enough. I didn’t prepare much apart from watching the documentary The Real Sleeping Beauty, in which Sarah Scantlin comes out of a 20-year coma,” explains the actor, rubbishing claims that he went to hospitals and met paralysed patients.
Making the switch
A three-part feature film Teen Aur Aadha (initially released in 2018), directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Daria Gaikalova, also premiered on Netflix recently, making it accessible to far more people than it was before. Interestingly, the 31-year-old actor tells us that he shot this film two weeks after wrapping up Neerja. While in the 2016 biopic by Ram Madhvani, he played the ruthless terrorist, Khalil, in Teen Aur Aadha, he enacted the character of a humane and gullible Natraj, whose conversation with sex worker Sulekha (Zoya Hussain) is rather poignant. When we ask how he manages this kind of transition, Jim admits, “Easy. I acted like one part of me in one, and like another part of me in the other. Each had extensive rehearsal processes —Neerja required major dialect coaching, and I thoroughly enjoyed building the character of Khalil. For Teen Aur Aadha, Zoya and I also rehearsed a lot. Since it was a one-take film, we needed the timing and the execution to be spot on.”
As we wonder out loud, if living with so many characters in one’s head simultaneously can get confusing, Jim remarks candidly, “Yes… and no. Just last month, I shot for a film in Delhi, flew to Kolkata to do a play, flew back and finished the film, and left the next day to start another film in Mumbai. The only part of that process that was tricky was flying there to start a new film. With the play, it was well rehearsed and set already. The first film was initially tricky, but by day three, you understand why you are in the film. With the second film: the same tricky sleepless night prior to the first day: have I prepared enough? Will the director like it? I know once I start rehearsing the lines, the character will pop back up, ready to find ways to express himself,” says the actor, who enjoys the distinction of having worked with some of the most highly rated filmmakers in Indian cinema.
From directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali to Konkona Sen Sharma, with whom any bit of experience is tantamount to an acting degree, Jim too learnt quite a great deal. Not only that, but the Sanju actor also confesses that he gets to hone his craft only given an inherent ability to invest a lot emotionally, in every part he gets. Sometimes, it takes pain, sweat and toil to breathe life into them. Letting us in on a secret, he says, “Once I broke my wrist on the first day of the second schedule in a sword fight, and was back the next day, hand in a cast — well hidden with fancy costuming, to finish the sword fight.” Well, maybe that kind of hardwork is the reason the last few months have turned out to be splendid for the actor. He leaves us with a little nugget of information that has us excited for him. He was a part of a short film by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Sometimes, I Think About Dying, which was selected for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Shorts Tour programme. “There are seven shorts selected from 80, which were screened at the festival,” signs off the actor, with a hint of pride.