The Curious Case of Jim Sarbh
The Curious Case of Jim Sarbh

An Emmy nomination. A consistent string of hit movies. A multi-faceted actor who roars regardless of the stage you put him on. Jim Sarbh and alternative cinema are no longer mutually exclusive. You’re looking at a leading man

Jim Sarbh’s had one hell of a year. Not least because of a glorious nomination for Best Actor at the 51st International Emmy Awards for his mighty portrayal of Dr. Homi J. Bhabha in Rocket Boys. Or his lofty performances in the critically acclaimed Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway and cult show Made in Heaven 2. But because the actor now sits comfortably on top of the mainstream—shedding the moniker of being an alternative hero, while still having an edge for being a multi-hyphenate performer, swinging confidently from theatre to cinema. He’s also producing a new YouTube show called Crew Cut, that puts crew members under the spotlight instead of actors.


Yet, Sarbh defies the stereotype of being mainstream in the context of today’s Bollywood actor. There’s nothing chocolate boy about his face or demeanour. He’s eccentrically charming and intimidatingly intelligent, outclassing you in conversations about worldly art, books and movies. His articulate responses in a posh accent are well thought-out like he’s dipped into the lengthy archives of his idiosyncratic brain. So, we figured that it’s only fair to delve further into Sarbh’s psyche to understand what makes up this inimitable man by putting him through The Proust Questionnaire. A template of set questions that has its origins in a parlour game popularised by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. This, of course, besides getting the lowdown on what really went down on the night of the Emmys.


Wool mohair suit and interlocking G chain bracelet. Both from Gucci.


The Emmy Experience
“It really felt like a room of people that enjoyed telling stories, who were happy to be there; happy to be recognised; and glad that their countries were being represented. Of course, the room was full of talent. I got to hear [British screenwriter and producer] Jesse Armstrong talk about Peep Show and Succession. I had a tequila shot with Rhys Darby, the host. [Fellow nominees] Gustavo Bassani and Jonas Karlsson were amazing. My family was there, my mum, my sister, my sister’s husband, my aunt. They were tagging along to everything. It was a good mix of meeting new people and taking my family around New York, going out for lunches, dinners and a play. We watched The Book of Mormon. There were a lot of tequila shots before the event. The Emmys itself was heart pounding. One of the last categories was Best Actor and with cameras on you, it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. That ‘they are going to say my name, I’m going to have to go up there, I’m going to have to say things and what the fuck am I going to say. And the first 15 seconds would be me just looking at the trophy and looking out at the audience like a frightened cat.”


Sky blue shirt, pistachio sweater, brown check jacket and gabardine pants; all from Gucci.


The Proust Questionnaire


What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JS: First of all, this emphasis on being happy is something that I want to immediately reject. This constant happiness trend that is taking over the world. I want to experience the full gamut of human experiences and I want to be able to linger in them if I feel like. That said, perfect happiness…. it really depends. It changes. I had a different idea of it 20 years ago than I do now, and I imagine it’ll change in another 5-10 years. However, I am happy with good company. Free time. The knowledge that an exciting project has just finished or around the corner. A beer. A walk. Ideally, through a body of water that I can spend the day at.


What is your greatest fear?
JS: A fear and fascination in equal parts with oblivion.


What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
JS: Tempted to say insecurity but also my temper. But I don’t think it’s either of them actually. Maybe, my callousness.


What is the trait you most deplore in others?
JS: Probably their callousness. When you don’t just care about the people around you.


Which person do you most admire?
JS: Jim Corbett.


What is your greatest extravagance?
JS: The time I allow myself to be on my phone.


What is your current state of mind?
JS: Anticipation.


What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
JS: Humility.


On what occasion do you lie?
JS: Avoidance.


What do you most dislike about your appearance?
JS: My thinking about it.


Cotton shirt, striped sweater, gabardine pants and Horesbit slippers; all from Gucci.


Which living person do you most despise?
JS: I don’t think I despise anyone but a crowd. Mobs are the stupidest thing in this world.


What is the quality you most like in a man?
JS: Sensitivity.


What is the quality you most like in a woman?
JS: Passion.


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
JS: ‘It’s crazy.’


What or who is the greatest love of your life?
JS: Telling stories.


When and where were you happiest?
JS: Walking along in the mountains.


Which talent would you most like to have?
JS: Singing.


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
JS: My restlessness. Although, you don’t know what you lose until you get it taken away. So, I don’t know, really.


What do you consider your greatest achievement?
JS: Independence.


If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
JS: I couldn’t care less. Once I’m dead, I’m dead.


Where would you most like to live?
JS: The Ngorongoro Crater for a year, tops. Then I’d reconsider.


What is your most treasured possession?
JS: My body.


Sky blue shirt and jacket; both from Gucci.


What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
JS: Constantly wanting what other people have.


What is your favourite occupation?
JS: Acting.


What is your most marked characteristic?
JS: That’s for other people to say. But maybe my ability to move on.


What do you most value in your friends?
JS: Their loyalty.


Who are your favourite writers?
JS: Too many to count. E.E. Cummings and Dostoevsky. I admire a variety of playwrights. And let’s go with a children’s novelist. Perhaps, K.A. Applegate. A non-fiction writer would be Peter Wohlleben.


Who is your hero of fiction?
JS: In the modern world, no one really.


Which historical figure do you most identify with?
JS: It’s funny answers like Marilyn Monroe but that’s not true. Joan of Arc, but that’s not true either. Wait, why not… Dr. Homi Bhabha.


Who are your heroes in real life?
JS: It usually just winds up being my friends. You know when they say that thing of how everyone can choose how they identify with God. There all these different ways; it can be through a parent, a child, your enemy. Like Ravan was God’s nemesis but he was the biggest bhakt because he couldn’t stop thinking about Ram as a consequence of it. So similarly, there are different ways that you can identify with God and mine is always through friends. That’s the relationship that makes the most sense to me. When they do little acts of kindness with each other. When somebody’s just startlingly generous. When someone has a different perspective on something that I’ve not thought about. These are the daily things that actually affect you. More than some external person that you’ll never really meet or see, who rarely live up to the things that they say outwardly.


What are your favourite names?
JS: Couple names of pets that I really like: Bozo, Mimi, Lulu, Ustaad, Begum.


What is it that you most dislike?
JS: Worry.


What is your greatest regret?
JS: Not deciding sooner.


How would you like to die?
JS: In a volcano. Or a tsunami.


What is your motto?
JS: Everything changes, everything passes, just do what you think you should do.


Gingham jacket, denim pants, interlocking G chain necklace and Horsebit loafers; all from Gucci.


What next, Jim Sarbh?
JS: “There is this show that’s coming out called Crew Cut, which I’m producing where we flip the narrative and actors aren’t interviewed but interview crew members
instead. We have eight episodes and we’ll put it up on my YouTube channels that I am setting up for the purpose of this. There’s no reason for me to do it apart from the fact that crew members don’t get much of a platform and I’m fascinated by everything they have to say. Usually, if you talk to them for long enough, they know so much about the project, more than the actor does but we have to keep hearing actors talking nonstop. If I have to watch another round table, I may just puke. I tried to reach out to people whose work I admire. I love animation and have done the opening credits in that form for Crew Cut. Pulled an idea out of my brain and have it be a real thing in the world of animation. I’m not a good artist or painter and often have ideas that I can’t physically create. So, I think this is a medium I’m really excited to explore. I love animation so much. I’d love to make an anthology serious of animated films. I’d be too excited.”


What’s 2024 looking like?
JS: Tremendous.


Credits –


Creative Director: Shivangi Lolayekar


Head of Production: Siddhi Chavan


Photographed by Chandrahas Prabhu


Stylist: Ojas Kolvankar


Assistant Stylist: Saee Walve


Hair & Make-Up: Priya Lahon


Location: Gigi, Mumbai

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