A favourite in the theatre circuit, the talented actor has made a cracking film debut as a vicious terrorist in Neerja.
Everyone in the theatre circuit knows Jim Sarbh as that “outrageously hot guy”. Most of my lady friends refer to him like that, anyway. Tall, good looking and very talented, Sarbh has been a delight to watch on stage. Sarbh fell in love with theatre at a young age, and it was during his years at Emory University in Atlanta that he decided to act professionally.
I saw him for the first time in 2013, in Alyque Padamsee’s revival of Death of a Salesman, in which Sarbh plays one of the Loman sons. Later, in 2014, I showed up for his directorial debut, Bull. Since then, Sarbh has been a prominent name in Mumbai’s theatre scene. He has worked in several plays, such as Rage Productions’ The Glass Menagerie, Vickram Kapadia’s The Merchant of Venice, Kalki Koechlin’s The Living Room and Rajat Kapoor’s What’s Done is Done. It is Neerja, however, in which he played the ruthless Palestinian hijacker Khalil, that made him a well known public face.
How did theatre prepare him for film? “It’s just a question of the frame,” Sarbh says. “On stage, the frame is huge, while in film it varies. You use the same principles of truthfulness and character and you just turn the volume up or down. You act with your entire body across an empty stage; you act with just your eyes in a close up.”
Death of a Salesman with Alyque Padamsee
What’s Done Is Done with Rajat Kapoor
The Glass Menagerie with Rage Productions
The Merchant of Venice with Vikram Kapadia
The Living Room with Kalki Koechlin
Debuted in direction with Bull
Does he remember his first day of shoot? “It was stressful as hell. I just knew that I had to reach up to the plane in a van, jump out, shoot two men, run up the stairs before the flight attendants closed the doors, burst into the plane, control any passengers that got in my way, rush to the front of the plane to find the cockpit, realize it was a coat cupboard, run back to my boss, interrupt Neerja on the phone, grab her, explain to my boss what was up (in Arabic, of course, a language I don’t know), get her to take me to the cockpit, kick down the door, shoot at the escaping pilots, slap Neerja around a little, get all the passengers downstairs, explain to my boss that the pilots have escaped and our plan is ruined, herd all the passengers into the middle section of the plane in broken Hindi or Libyan-accented English and then wait for someone from the outside to contact us. One take. Fuck.” He finally catches a breath.
Sarbh is quite the “hero material” for the offbeat indie space today. He’s currently shooting for Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut, A Death in the Gunj, and I’m sure he has an interesting career ahead of him. Also, ladies, if you meet him, ask him to talk to you in an Italian accent. He does quite a good job of it.
This article was first published in April 2016