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The Power of Precision

Gone are the days when the central characters and the director owned the limelight when a film became a super hit. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, which is currently ruling the box office, is receiving praise for every perfectly crafted element in the film. Actor Jim Sarbh, with his strong screen presence; has added to the overall charm of this mega period drama. Here is Suranjana Biswas in conversation with him about his craft

On The Brief

There was no brief, really. Sanjay sir let me come into the office and read the script.

On The Role

Deadly, ambitious, loyal, sensitive slave. I tried to understand the scenes and play them out to the best of my abilities. I focused on what my character wants, how he thinks, and how he moves.

On The Challenges

The shoot lasted a year and three days, so that required stamina: walking around with 25 per cent of your brain stuck in the mind space of one of your characters. The scenes required great precision and it was nerve-wracking to try and achieve this precision. To manage the improvised lines in Urdu with an Afghani accent. To keep the scene fresh and true, while still trying to strike through to a new depth without losing what we had created and achieved already, over 60 takes. These were the challenges.

On Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali

I truly enjoyed working with him. He taught me all the basic things that a film actor should know… how to manipulate, the magnification of the frame, the power of imagination, awareness of the camera, etc. Specifically, however, he helped me understand precision: that there is a beat to a scene, and the line has to come on that beat, and you have to find a way to make it come on that beat, you must find the motivation so that it appears natural. Once you know this, then you can play around with being slightly early, or slightly late, to surprising effect.

He helped me think of economy of gesture. Extra is only necessary if it is absolutely necessary. He always pushes you to dig in to find hidden layers in a scene; he is extremely improvisational by nature, and if he appreciates what you bring to the scene, he is prepared to restructure the scene accordingly. He also throws new things at you that you might not have considered.

On His Co-Stars

I mainly interacted with Ranveer Singh, who I think is a brilliant actor. He always came to the scene with ideas, new ways of expression, with real spirit and vigour to try to achieve everything Sanjay sir would throw at us. He is improvisational and extremely reactive and that is all you can hope for.

We were always attempting to reach the secret potential of the scene, to hit that magical feeling where you are perfectly connected with your own character, your co-actor’s character, and the natural fate of the scene.

On The Response

People seem to dig it.

Future Projects

The Sanjay Dutt biopic releases in June, in which I have quite a bombastic part. I have worked in Made In Heaven, a web-series helmed by Zoya Akhtar and Nitya Mehra. I am also in a web-series called Smoke. I have also acted in a film called Teen Aur Aadha directed by Dar Gai, with Zoya Hussain. I hope it receives a theatrical release. It is a very sensitive and beautiful script. Three stories occurring in the same room, are told with three long takes.

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