Jim Sarbh© GettyImages

Jim Sarbh On His Unique Roles, ‘Made In Heaven’ Season 2 & More

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Ananya Shankar

“People who grew up around sets have an ease on camera as a consequence of their experience. It gives them a screen presence, a certain charisma, or a screen magnetism. The latter you either have or you don’t.”

Witty and wise, Jim Sarbh certainly embodies the cinematic magnetism he speaks of, which translates to his off- screen self, as well. His debut as an unhinged terrorist in Neerja made him the talk of the town, a dynamic that’s remained unchanged till date.

In each project, be it Padmaavat or Made in Heaven, or his more recent work in Rocket Boys and Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, Jim guarantees that his acting prowess will prove to be a crowd puller, no matter his role in it.

Before he transitioned to cinema, Jim garnered immense recognition as a prolific theatre artiste, working in Alyque Padamsee’s revival of Death of a Salesman and Vickram Kapadia’s The Merchant of Venice, among other notable plays.

“The art of carrying the entire show in theatre, the craft and skill that goes into that process from beginning to end, will always be a little harder,” says the theatre aficionado. “But if we just look at the actor’s craft in both... A film is put together by the director, editor, sound and design engineer and is not an actor’s medium; the stage entirely is. You have to be able to get all the way through, no matter what.”

It’s this theatre experience that’s equipped the 35-year-old with the ease and expertise we see on screen today.

Known to be rather conscientious while choosing his next project, Jim explains how he ends up attracting such unconventional projects.

In his wise words, “truth is stranger than fiction sometimes,” and it’s perhaps an interesting coincidence that a majority of Jim’s roles are inspired by real-life characters. Both Rocket Boys and Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway bring the real to the reel, divulging a more serious dilemma underneath.

“There’s this European bias around, but everyone has their garbage. My characters touch upon this topic of obsessing over Europe and America,” he quips.

In the aftermath of India’s sordid colonial past, there certainly remains a fascination with the West. But with a wave of cognisance washing over the film industry — and sagacious actors like Jim leading the change — these issues are being brought into the spotlight.

Speaking of his character, Daniel Singh Ciupek, in Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, we wonder if he enjoys playing such ambivalent antagonists.

“I believe the character is good all the way through. It’s just because we see him through her (Mrs Chatterjee’s) eyes that he’s made to ‘seem’ untrustworthy and unsure of his motivations. But I was sure. Throughout the film, his politics and morals remain consistent.”

Jim was on the set of Rocket Boys when Nikhil Advani, the director, introduced the film to him. While he had initially deemed it merely satisfactory, he jumped on board soon after reading the superbly written script. Mulling it over, he laughs as he says, “Those kinds of scripts get attracted to me, or I get attracted to them. I don’t know! When I pick a script, I make sure my part has enough complexity, so it’ll be fun for me to act. I may like the medium, like sci-fi, or I may want to work with that director.” When asked which of his complex characters resemble him personally, he says they all do, but not right off the bat. He explains: “They become me as I play them. They become a mix of what’s in the pages and who I am.”

Unfazed by the challenge of a new medium, this actor triumphed with two releases this year, conquering both the big and small. And in his portrayal of the legendary Dr Homi J Bhabha in the OTT hit Rocket Boys, he appeared to have formed a personal connect with the esteemed figure.

“If a script is written clearly from the beginning, you understand the character and can build on that foundation. My writer and director, Abhay (Pannu), was very interested in working together, attending workshops and coming up with new ideas.”

Jim strongly asserts that OTT is a writers’ medium first and foremost, and that a good script is key to good acting, to a good film.

“We’re experiencing a different kind of filmmaking today that’s starting to blossom in Bollywood. People are still trying to understand what would be a good first season, what they should change, what they should retain, and how they can even tell a story over four seasons.”

“When’s this article coming out? July? Oh, Season 2 of Made in Heaven also releases then!”

Jim gushes about the show, which debuted in 2019 and is finally returning to Amazon Prime Video this month.

“How long has it been? Seven, 12, 14 years? Three years?” he laughs. “It’s been a while!”

A rarity among paparazzi-tailed celebrities, Jim prefers his privacy. However, caught in contemplation of his upcoming schedule, he lets us in on his vacation plans. “I’m travelling to the Maldives soon. I’m looking forward to doing some yoga, swimming, snorkelling, and potentially paddle boarding. I hope to start drinking champagne in the afternoon (laughs), have a big dinner and perhaps see the sharks...”

But on a regular Saturday, after a strenuous work week, he’s just like the rest of us, wanting to sleep in, hang out with near and dear ones and unwind with a movie.

Despite his success, Jim remains grounded and embodies a sense of ease in his identity that he brings to the screen. It’s this versatility that makes him a stand-out force in the industry today — and we hope in the years to come, as well…

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!