Jim Sarbh, usually a man of few words, talks at length about how the second season of Rocket Boys will more dramatic as well as impressive : The Tribune India

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Jim Sarbh, usually a man of few words, talks at length about how the second season of Rocket Boys will more dramatic as well as impressive

Jim Sarbh, usually a man of few words, talks at length about how the second season of Rocket Boys will more dramatic as well as impressive

A still from Rocket Boys 2



Nonika Singh

He loves cats and hates to generalise. Statements like ‘OTT is the Mecca for actors like him who love to experiment’ leave him cold. Jim Sarbh who has not just played a variety of roles, but given us many shades of every character that he has etched out can be dismissive and expansive at the same time. He could answers your queries in monosyllables and at another moment dwell at length on topics that interest him.

Without a doubt, Rocket Boys, one of the best shows of 2022, has him talking. The show amalgamated science, emotion, entertainment and information in a riveting package, and Jim, a Parsi himself, nailed all the inflections of renowned Parsi physicist Homi Bhabha.

Today as the second season of the series, which will take the story forward to India’s secret nuclear test at Pokhran, is all set to stream on SonyLIV, Jim is neither over-confident nor jittery. All he feels at this stage is, “A restlessness, nervous excitement akin to what one feels before a play goes up. Now you just want an audience.”

He’s a team man

While canning the first season he may not have anticipated the critical acclaim that came his way or the show’s, but he certainly knew they had a special thing at hand. Having worked with the best there is, Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Padmaavat, who knows his job like few others, he was not apprehensive about working with debutant director Abhay Pannu.

Few minutes into discussion with him he knew, “Here was a sharp director. On the sets, I saw his vision and intricate knowledge of camera movements.” Today as he recalls the pluses like ‘consistency’ in having the same technical team and director for the second season, he is all praise not just for Abhay Pannu but entire crew whose names he rattles with ease. He insists, “No matter how good a screenplay may be, the role of technical crew is humongous. They can make or mar a film. In Rocket Boys, be it cinematographer Harshvir Oberai, editor Maahir Zaveri or composer Achint Thakkar, they all made the project look like a million bucks even with limited resources.”

Among the many parts that he has essayed, Homi J Bhabha surely is closest to his heart. It required him to play this complicated being, “mercurial, thoughtful, confident, brash, smug, arrogant, charming, generous”, which indeed is a challenge for an actor. Playing an inspirational character or a bad man or grey (Made in Heaven), he doesn’t think there is any major difference and you tap into that part of your experience which is appropriate for the scene. And it may not necessarily be one emotion. For example, in Neerja he brought out the impatience of a hijacker who is ferocious yet believes he is righteous, in Padmaavat’s devious Malik Kafur he unveiled his loving facet and in the towering persona of Homi, apart from his greatness, his impudence too had to be factored in.

Ultimately, whatever may be the genre, he observes, “People come to a show to be entertained.” So Rocket Boys could not have been “a boring science lesson but had to weave science organically.” Not once during the shooting did he feel that they were doing scenes just for the heck of it, “each scene was either revealing the character or taking the plot forward.”

As the second season will pack the incredible journey of Dr Homi Bhabha, Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam shaping a new era to make India a nuclear nation, Jim promises, “more entertaining drama and a wiser Homi Bhabha.”

Indeed a livewire

Having started his career on ‘bad man’ note in an industry that thrives on pigeonholing actors, he could easily have fallen in a trap. How did he escape it? “Simply by doing nothing except acting.” Today he may or may not say no to smaller roles as in Sanju, for, “impact and not length matters.” But after the success of Rocket Boys he certainly is eyeing lead parts. Besides second season of Rocket Boys he will also be seen in Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, which releases this Friday. Yet another outing of Made in Heaven too is on the anvil.

Livewire on screen, off screen Jim claims to be “what you see is what you get.” And what do we get? Well, a man who is not one thing but many and for whom one thing can’t exist without the other. Only he would not do anything by design. So he has no answers when he is quizzed, “Why do I play real characters or bad ones? Or what genres do I prefer?” Having studied psychology getting into the mind of an actor too was not a conscious choice, for, “I have been acting all my life…” and one thing he is dead sure of is, “I want to keep acting.” To be part of storytelling process of brilliant films, web series, plays is his dream. Only he is living that dream…Watch Rocket Boys to know how an actor can make a brilliant show soar even higher.


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