Padmaavat actor Jim Sarbh on his new series Smoke, and why the medium isn't important when it comes to good roles
It’s dark, gritty and set in the underbelly of Goa. Eros Now’s Smoke, which released last week, doesn’t just promise you a plot that will give you a sneak peek into the drug trade in the state, but it also has a stellar cast. Jim Sarbh, who catapulted to fame after his 2016 feature film debut Neerja, is also part of this star entourage.
Smoke is about two kingpins, Bhau and Moshe Barak in Goa, and about the family’s drug business. You also have in the mix a vindictive wife, betrayal, the mistress and the informant. We ask Jim how the whole plot came together for him and he says, “The director called me and told me about this project, but he also said that they’ve shot a pilot for it. But then the actor playing my part, for whatever reason, was no longer playing it. He asked if I can step in, and I said yes!” While in talks with the crew, the 31-year-old was on the sets of Padmaavat early last year, when someone on the set asked him about Smoke. “That’s when I realised the scope of this role and how big it was. Then, I ended up reading through the series, and really loved it. It was a nice, pacy read,” says the actor, whom you may remember from the 2017 thriller, A Death In The Gunj.
Jim plays Roy, a witty informant, with his foul mouth and sarcastic demeanour. Is Roy’s character as dark as the genre? “My character isn’t very dark,of the crime genre type. He is there. He is amongst it all, but he’s not that way. He is a sweetie,” he says with a chuckle. Ask him more about Roy, and the kind of personality traits that he personally draws similarities with, and he flat out refuses to divulge any more. “I don’t talk about my characters. You will have to watch the show to find out.”
Playing lead roles in the series are Kalki Koechlin, Mandira Bedi, Amit Sial, Gulshan Devaiah, Satyadeep Mishra, Neal Bhoopalam, Prakash Belawadi and the late Tom Alter. We ask Jim how the experience was working with such an eclectic range of actors. “ Wow, I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was. It was an absolute pleasure to act with them. More than that, the whole shoot experience just got easier. We used to hang out post acting, which was equally fun. They’re all fun, dynamic and down to earth people. It’s so enjoyable to be around them,” says Jim.
Broke in Goa
You can tell that Jim doesn’t sit still for long, as he breaks out into a tune humming Radiohead’s Paranoid Andriod and is completely distracted when the next question is asked. We ask him again if he’s been to Goa before? “I did a show there at Kalamandir, in Panjim. But all I did was ride a bike around and go watch the sunset,” says Jim, adding that that he once went for a week as an experiment to see if he could survive without money. “It worked! People fed me and I did survive without money.”
Stage to series
The theatre actor was listed in 2015 in a recent 30 under 30 list for his contributions to the Mumbai theatre industry and why wouldn’t he be? Jim worked with the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta for a year as an intern, and then moved back to India in 2012, to pursue theatre seriously. His performance as Happy Loman in Alyque Padamsee’s 2013 reboot of Death of a Salesman earned him several good reviews. Following which, he continued to act in several Mumbai plays like Rajat Kapoor’s What’s Done Is Done, The Glass Menagerie, The Merchant of Venice, Kalki’s Living Room and more.“This year, I shot two movies. One called Wedding Guests, that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival with Radhika Apte and Dev Patel. And the other one is Beneath The Sea Of Lights, which they’re sending out to festivals. So fingers crossed for that.”
We try to conclude the conversation with his opinion on actors who are now moving from mainstream cinema to web series, and he cuts us off with a, “I don’t know, I just want to act. I don’t give importance to the medium. I want to act in cinema, theatre, digital — I want to do it all!”
Streaming on Eros Now.