Jim Sarbh has played multiple roles on stage. But he got his break on the big screen only last year as Khalil the terrorist in Neerja. Since then the Bollywood offers have been pouring in quite rapidly. His next appearances will be in Rajkumar Hirani’s Dutt, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat and Dinesh Vijan’s Raabta – all grand, larger than life Bollywood productions. We asked the actor about his biggest learnings in making the switch from theatre to the large screen.
Learning To Manipulate The Camera
People often think that has a negative connotation. But honestly, it just means to move and engage with something and to use it in order to best express your character. If it’s a close-up, then don’t look in between the two eyes. If your face is humongous and you’re going to look directly between the two eyes, you will end up looking shifty. Also, if the frame is a mid-shot then don’t act with your f***king feet! Just make sure you’re aware of what the camera is capturing and play with that. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or good acting if the camera hasn’t captured it.
Coping With Erratic Shoot Schedules
I was shooting an intense war sequence during the day for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, then getting into a car, going to the airport and flying to Goa where I was shooting a 3-4 hour shift for another film, getting back to Mumbai and being told that I have a close-up shot at 7 AM in the morning! I know that I can say no, but as a newcomer when the offers are so good you can’t get yourself to turn them down.
Precision Over Freestyle
I’ve come to learn that sometimes precision has more power in the film world. But in theatre, more often than not raw emotion can win just because the audience is right there and they will feel it in a big wave and they will go away with that feeling.
During the shoot of Padmavati, I really enjoyed the process of working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali because of his eye to detail and precision. We would both look at a take and he’d be like, ‘You looked to the left at one moment’ and when I watched it I know he’s right because that one look changes everything. It makes it look like my character is thinking about what he’s going to say instead of just looking up and having it come out pat.
No Instant Feedback
Theatre gives you the high of a live audience and because of my theatre background, I had learnt to shut the door on a character after it’s done and move to the next one. These last few weeks before Raabta’s release have been horrible for me. It’s like there is so much wind going in and out of that door that doesn’t allow me to forget that it’s still open. But the truth is I’m no longer there because I shot the film a year ago and I’ve moved on to Dutt and Padmavati. I can best sum it up with an X-rated metaphor – it feels like you’re masturbating and masturbating but you’re just not able to cum!
A Missing Sense Of Community
I have come to love the community that surrounds theatre. Nine out of ten times the film world ends up being a commercial enterprise. The people who get the most money and draw the most viewers are the ones who are the most important. At the end of the day, nobody cares about anyone else. When you add commerce to anything it becomes ruthless.
That’s why actors become ma*******ds after a while. Once they finally taste success and they have the power in their hands they revel in it saying, “Now you have to ask me for my dates, right? You wait and watch!” Because when you’re a nobody, they really treat you like you don’t exist.
Maneuvering The World of PRs & Agents
At this moment my mind is more confused with the parameters of the world of movies and very little with the acting process. Honestly, acting is acting and you can do it anywhere. All of that is so much easier than dealing with agents, producers and schedules. That’s what drives me ba-na-na-s! I don’t know how to do it and I’m bad at it. I’m just not good at being diplomatic and I suffer as a consequence. I’ve always just wanted to act in films. If I got no fame and people wanted to cast me for the rest of my life that’s awesome!
Watch the entire conversation here: