If you have seen the film Neerja, then you probably were unable to take your eyes off of Khalil — the volatile terrorist whose timely outbursts kept us on the edge of our seats. Jim Sarbh who plays the role of the terrorist who looms in each frame, demanding our attention as his impatient persona makes us anxious.
Neerja, the film about a 23-year-old head purser of an airline, who saved 360 lives after terrorists hijacked the plane has been receiving heaps of praise. While, Sonam Kapoor plays the titular character, taking the lead along with her is 28-year-old Sarbh who has worked in more than a dozen plays in Mumbai. Sarbh has featured in Death of a Salesman with Alyque Padamsee, The Living Room with Kalki Koechlin and in Rajat Kapur’s production of Tennesse William’s The Glass Menagerie. He also recently featured in a Rajasthan tourism advertisement.
Trained as a psychologist from Emory University in Atlanta, the Mumbai-born Parsi took up acting after he moved to Mumbai. When asked whether the degree helped him as an actor, he quips, “Psychology is good for a quick first read, or when you have to give an audition it will help. But ideally you rehearse to the extent that you exceed psychology. Go past your brain and you allow your body to make decisions for you because your body is aware of a much older wisdom which your brain can never touch.”
Sarbh never thought that he was pursuing acting as a career — the versatile actor with many high profile acting gigs under his belt says, “Only in the last week have I suddenly become aware of this stuff (acting) as a career. Up until then it was the only thing I could do. I get bored with everything else in the world. I would just act because people kept asking me to.”
Jim’s portrayal of the terrorist is quite remarkable, he brings out Khalil’s sociopathic tendencies with finesse. “Khalil is like a honey badger. He might not be the biggest villain in town but he is ferocious — he is impatient, he is hard on himself and he is hard on everyone around him. It must be miserable to actually be Khalil,” adds Sarbh.
It was not easy becoming Khalil confesses Sarbh; the role took its toll on him, “I was quite miserable while I was shooting. I was in this bad mood all the time, always impatient, always nervous, and always ready for a fight. In the last two days of shooting, everybody on set was seeing a different Jim. I was smiling at everyone. I was so glad to be done (with Khalil).”
Actor and auteur
Apart from acting, Sarbh has also directed three plays – Untold Stories, Cock, and Bull. He takes them up like art projects and loves the idea of creating plays that sound like jazz — grandly arranged, smooth and free-flowing. Sarbh embodies different personas as actor and director. “As an actor I am like a selfish child, sometimes I give into some pretty bad habits – like I am irresponsible and just like do whatever I like—that kinda thing. As a director I am more like a loving parent. Pray to god that the child does well on the first day of school.”
We will soon see him in other projects like Death of a Ganj – a Konkana Sen Sharma film, where he is working with stalwarts like Om Puri, Tanuja, Gulshan Devaiya, Ranveer Shorey and Vikrant Massey. He is also playing the role of a Mexican janitor in Rajat Kapur’s play What Is Done Is Done.
The actor is capable of giving fantastic performances, Neerja being a minor case in point. Confident in his abilities, the actor says, “As an actor I should be able to convey my characters’ dilemmas to my audience. If it’s time for them to feel sad, they will feel sad. If it’s time for them to feel happy, they will be happy.”