"I Like Telling And Being Part Of Stories": Jim Sarbh In Conversation With Reader's Digest

For Jim Sarbh, it’s the script that matters and not the length of his roles

Sarbani Sen Updated: Feb 18, 2020 10:57:31 IST
Jim Sarbh (Photo courtesy Milind Shelte/India Today)

Was acting always your first love?

Acting, yes—but essentially, I like telling and being part of stories. I love discovering new people, uncovering the imagination of the writer, adding to it and shaping it.

Tell us a bit about your experience as a student in the US.

I had a good time at the Alliance Theatre group, while graduating in psychology in Atlanta. They had a great team of ‘power women’—the artistic director Susan Booth, producer and casting director Jody Feldman and director of new projects Celise Kalke. I was a literary intern and I acted in their show called Tennis in Nablus.

Back in India, Death of a Salesman drew a lot of attention. Would you say that a wider audience noticed you after it? Did it help you land roles in Hindi films too?

I suppose it all played a part. But no, I do not think this particular play led me into Hindi cinema. It isn’t that I was using it as a stepping stone. I always wanted to act in both [films and theatre] and have never viewed my life in the cause-and-effect way that some strategists can. I’m a bit more fatalistic that way.

You directed your first play, Bull, in 2014. Are you planning to write and direct more plays?

Bull was very hard because of a personal tragedy. And it happened right in the middle of the rehearsals. I haven’t thought of directing again. I enjoy creating and imagining the entire world of the play, and I enjoy pushing and being surprised by actors and all there is to discover about the interpersonal dynamics of a scene. At this moment, however, I am more interested in exploring the world as an actor.

You have done a few web series and enjoy a huge fan following there. Can we expect to see you more on that platform?

Yes, I suppose so. It is such a blossoming medium. I don’t think we fully understand just what is achievable with such a long story arc. I think the limits are still being pushed and the experimentation with its form and structure are still at a very nascent stage. I am currently acting in an international web series, but it is all hush-hush. I hope to act in many more.

The short film, Sometimes I Think About Dying, was shortlisted for the Oscars, and your portrayal of Robert impressed viewers. How do you choose your roles? What tips the scales before you say yes?

I try to think about the story and how my character affects the flow of events and truth. I loved this script, but I did this particular project because a friend asked me to. We managed to pull together a team of old friends (seven of us, in fact, who all went to Emory in the US together) to make it.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

There is season two of the web series, Made in Heaven. Then there is Ballet Boys (about two working-class boys learning ballet) by Sooni Taraporevala, Taish starring Pulkit Samrat and Harshvardhan Rane, directed by Bejoy Nambiar.

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