Jim Sarbh is enjoying a string of high-profile films and shows, including Gangubai Kathiawadi, two seasons of Rocket Boys, and the second season of Made In Heaven (Amazon Prime), released this week. Sarbh came to wider reknown playing the antagonist in Neerja and for his performances in Padmaavat and Sanju, besides being a part of, and directing, a number of stage plays. Edited excerpts from an interview:
I think marriages in general are heavily promoted and marriage is conditioned into us from childhood. The idea of a match made in heaven, the idea of a soul mate and true love is symbolised by marriage. There's been such an overemphasis on this being the most important day of your life and the depictions in the media wind up being of these charming, lyrical, beautiful events.
Now tracing back marriage as an institution, property laws, tax, benefits and all those things aside, rituals in themselves are beautiful. I do love them. For example, a friend’s cat passed away recently so we all met at his house, we lit a candle and put some flowers around the urn, said our goodbyes, shared memories and had a good cry. Rituals can be cathartic and beautiful.
A reason Made In Heaven became so interesting is weddings can sometimes be gaudy events that are less about the real unity, and more about spectacle. So I think people were hungering to look behind the curtain and see the stuff we don't usually talk about in relation to weddings which have so much power. I feel the makers tapped into that power and pulled back the curtain a little bit and we are voyeurs and we love it.
Well, my approach is to think about what I would like if I was the director. I have directed a play or two so I have a little bit of experience and an understanding of people being able to understand my vision for the scene or what I'm striving for, and then bringing me options within that vision. If you come in with options you should also be able to let go of your options and provide the director with the option that they need to see. Sometimes the director just has to see what they have in their mind first before they're open to other approaches. Sometimes they are, sometimes they want what they want.
Very few directors I have worked with are absolutely fixed in what they want and how they want it. The majority have been highly collaborative. I've thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration. Between their ideas and my ideas there exists some combination of both that will be better than either of them separately.
For an actor, he’s wonderful to work with. I feel I understood what he wanted. But the days I am not understanding what he wants or the days I am unprepared, I don’t feel good because I know that he can see it. If I forget a line or take a seconds pause, I can see him look away and I say I know, I know. I'm sorry. This shows that he sees what I'm doing, he really sees it. And as an actor what you want more than anything is to be seen, heard and felt.
Yes, I have played a lot of real life characters. Even A Death in the Gunj is loosely based on a real incident. I don't know what it is about those kinds of films that the parts get offered to me. When it comes to the burden of playing a real life character, I try not to think about it at all. I try to trust the team and you can feel whether the research team has done their job in the writing itself . Of course, I also watch things and read things separately as and when they come, but I try not to let that information burden or straightjacket how I would play the scene. I try to understand the essence of the character when they were actually alive and then I examine how the writer and director have written the character and how it suits the overall plot of the story itself.
With Rocket Boys we did continue to evolve the script and some scenes, even as we got closer to the shoot. We could use what had already been shot and what was done before in order to deepen or potentially tweak the scenes. Whereas with Made in Heaven, in which I also play a developing character, it was really just kind of set and we were given the lines. Then within that there were many opportunities to play around with interpretation or to find a way to bring out new flavours and characteristics.
Actually, I have a message about a solo show in November. It’s a beautiful text, but I don't think I can do it. I was also part of readings of King Lear with Naseeruddin Shah playing Lear and Rehan Engineer directing. I'm struggling with which part to play, because there's Edgar and there's also Edmund. Both are quite interesting. But unfortunately, or fortunately, I am booked so I won’t be able to do theatre this year at least. There’s a film coming out in September but I'm not allowed to discuss it, and another was supposed to release in December. They are both completely different genres than anything I've done before.