Nobody can forget the terrorist hijacking the plane in the film Neerja (2016), who scared us to death. “People in the streets sometimes call me out as ‘Ae terrorist’,” says Jim Sarbh on a show recently. Way before foraying into films though, he had made a name for himself in the theatre industry. His performance as Happy Loman in Alyque Padamsee’s 2013 revival of Death of a Salesman drew the attention of several commentators. He was also listed in Forbes India’s 30 under 30 list in 2015 for his contribution to the Mumbai theatre industry.
Jim recently performed at the NCPA Add Art festival at a production called, Constellations. Talking about the performance, he says, “It was a beautiful monologue written by Simon Stephens called Sea Wall and is directed by Bruce Guthrie. It is one of the most elegant and devastating monologues I have ever read, and I hope I can do justice to it.” Bruce also directed Constellations in 2018 that played to full houses and was spoken highly of by the audiences.
Getting live feedback is something that every stage actor craves for. Jim puts forward his perspective, saying, “The live feedback loop that informs and bolsters your performance is the best part about being on stage for me. The sense that we are all in this together — with identical energies for that hour, where we can all be on the same page, and participate in a story unfolding.”
Jim continued to act in Mumbai-based plays including Rajat Kapoor’s What’s Done is Done, Rage Productions’s The Glass Menagerie, Vickram Kapadia’s The Merchant of Venice, Kalki Koechlin’s Living Room, and later made his directorial and writing debut with the 2014 production, Bull and Eat, respectively. Remembering a funny incident, he says, “Once I coughed mid monologue in The Glass Menagerie and couldn’t get my words out. It’s like my throat closed up and I had to spit on stage to get whatever was in there out — and an audience member went ‘ew’, and I looked at them and all the lines just popped right out of my head, and so I had to just talk around the subject until I finally got back on track. Later, a member of the audience thought we had built this moment into the play to foreshadow the fact that my character has tuberculosis. This just goes to show anything can work.”
It’s difficult not to fall for that urban yet Indian charm of the actor. When asked what is his most memorable moment on stage, he quickly responds with a smirk, “Most? There are innumerable memorable moments. Come and help me make some of them in my show.”
Jim says he looks up to several actors. “I look up to so many actors such as Adam Driver, Timothy Chalamet, Naseeruddin Shah, Irfaan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristen Wiig, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Katy Wright-Mead, Emma Thompson, Frances McDormand, Tabu, Vidya Balan... the list is endless.”
Talking about his process of getting into a role, he says, “reading the lines” is how he starts off. He adds that Cleansed by Sarah Kane is the one play that changed his perception about theatre. He also says that the Mumbai theatre scene helped him as well. He signs off by advising young artistes. He says, “keep acting.”
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