'It is a straight comedy, which I haven’t done in film ever': Jim Sarbh on House Arrest
RIGHT from his debut film Neerja, Jim Sarbh, on most occasions, has captivated the audience’s attention with his charming acting skills and roles, be it Malik Kafur of Padmaavat, Zubin Mistry of Sanju or Adil Khanna of Made in Heaven. As he returns to the web with a Netflix Original, House Arrest, we ask him about his process of getting into the skin of the characters and if this immersion impacts his personal life. Excerpts:
Q: House Arrest seems to be an eccentric film with elements of comedy and romance. What drew you to the film?
Firstly, it was a Netflix Original and I wanted to be in a Netflix film since a while. Two of my films, Jonaki (by director Aditya Vikram Sengupta) and Teen Aur Aadha (by director Dar Gai) both came on Netflix this year but this was an original so I was psyched. And, then I read the script. It was making me chuckle while reading it and I could imagine the type of comedy that it was and the beats are just well laid out. Besides, I loved the trope of this normal guy, Karan [played by Ali Fazal], suddenly buffeted by all these wild-whacky characters. You will see why he relates to these characters and why is he best friend with someone like me who seem like such an opposite. I love that, I have always liked looking at two friends who look very different on the surface but at the core, they understand each other.
Q: Your roles are very interesting, how do you go about selecting scripts?
Up until Sanju, I did everything that was given to me. After Sanju and Padmaavat, I started becoming pickier because I was tired of receiving similar roles –villain, murderer, rapist, paedophile and so on. I never thought this would be the case because I come from the theatre where I have played all kinds of roles but rarely the villain. I picked House Arrest because I was really tired of playing the bad guy and this guy appears to be... it is hard to put your fingers on what exactly is he doing but the script is fun and the possibility to do a straight comedy, which I love a lot but haven’t done in a film ever, and bully Ali was too good to be missed. Also, sometimes you pick a project for a project and not for the individual parts. I liked the whole package of the project.
Q: How do you prepare for a role?
It depends. I read the script and rehearse over and over again as much as I can. I try to figure out what the words are telling me and what kind of person would say these kinds of words and then I move backwards. I don’t try to do a lot of backstories, it is for the hobbyist, in my opinion. So, if I read a script where I don’t like the dialogues, it depresses me.
Q: Are you somebody who immerses himself completely in a script or film?
Absolutely. Two weeks leading up to a film, especially if it is a big film, everything falls apart. Leading up to the film, I open all the gates and allow things to affect me and I keep opening these gates until I am a raw and exposed nerve because I want to be open to every emotion when I am on the sets. The biggest problem that always happens to me, I always end up breaking up with my girlfriend two weeks before the project. Earlier, I would be like ‘this person is driving me crazy, it can’t work’. Now I am like, ‘Jim, this is just the big project you are stressed about, ignore the person or just explain it to them or cut off the reactive part of your brain just for them’. That’s how it goes. I am fighting with my roommates, my parents, everyone…
Q: And when does this madness ends?
On the last day of the shoot or once I have finished most of the hard work needed in the film and only the patchwork is left. It is like this giant weight has been lifted off me and I can close the gates again and just be a happy, normal person.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
JS: I am doing another Netflix film, which I am not allowed to talk about but there also I get to be a funny person. I have recently shot for Taish for Director Bejoy Nambiar. It features two parallel stories of two families that kind of smash into each other. You will see my side of the story through my eyes, I am the protagonist who unwillingly gets dragged into a revenge saga. I play a doctor and my the role of my girlfriend, a surgeon in the same hospital, is played by Kirti Kharbanda.
Q: Lastly, you have often told journalist how a question of their’s is silly and you often refuse to answer certain questions. Is there a question you wish to be asked?
JS: I wish people talk more about actual acting. Talk more about a scene, a moment, unpacking things related specifically to acting. We need to go beyond the headlines that say ‘Jim is unhappy with scripts’ or ‘Jim is dating this person’.
House Arrest, featuring Ali Fazal, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Barkha Singh and Jim Sarbh, streams on Netflix on Nov 15