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Jim Sarbh on art, being an artist and the wisdom therein


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Jim Sarbh on art, being an artist and the wisdom therein

Springtide Magazine

Jim Sarbh, a virtuoso in Indian cinema, television and theater, politely stated his inclination of penning down his own answers for the cover story. As a writer, a quick hesitation surfaced on my face. There was a lot to narrate about him – his demeanor as an artist at work, his creative thoughts, and most importantly, his openness to collective creation. But this piece was a representation of him in his being and what he had to say, rather than my semantically fragmented assumptions of what I thought of him to be.

In a sum of 14 questions, Jim articulated the momentousness of being true, raw and committed in his writing through the glorious poetic style of e.e.cummings. This time a satisfying grin surfaced on my face knowing that this artist brought much more authenticity to the table that confirmed my faith in his artistic vision.

1.Your earliest memory of discovering who you wanted to be (most hours of the day, atleast). Which curiosities fed the passion that you cultivated over the years?  

it is not a memory. it is a story. my beaming mischievous mother  tells it, ‘I would put you down in front of the tv, in front of cartoons,  and i would walk through the room later, and notice the weather  was on, and you’d be sitting there, mouth open, hypnotised by that  bloody box.’  

or was it the stories my nani would tell me? long and elaborate  stories, with great attention to detail, and no amount of retelling  would ruin the experience i had listening to them.  

i can’t say there was a eureka moment, as boring as it may be, but  a great variety and series of nudges, all nudging me along down a  path that magically materialised under every foot forward.  

curiosity is to life, should be to life, the things around you, all the  time. as far as the acting passion, i think the curiosity to understand  people and animals and myself always excited me.  

2. How did your relationship with yourself thrive while being an actor – as a teenager, young adult and now  

as a teenager i never thought of myself an actor, just as a person  who wanted to do a-lot of things. and do them fairly well. socialising,  flirting, sports, theatre, student government, and academic success.  i jacked at all trades.  

as a young adult i was full of that bursting power of confidence and  assuredness, and i wanted to reject narcissism and i wanted to  discover myself and i wanted to make great things – but i didn’t  know how, and i suppose that bothered me.  

now, i have succumbed to aspects of the job that i might have  rejected in my youth, but i also feel more capable than ever of 

making things – precisely because the confidence has been  tempered by a better understanding of weakness.  

Springtide Magazine/ Volume II, Issue 001
Double breasted trench coat, from Sameer Madan.

3. Being an actor means character development. Did you see glimpses of you in every character you played or glimpses of them stay with you that added up to something you are now?  

you are never not you. sorry folks. 

so: yes. sometimes, the character served as a cautionary tale. i  hope i don’t wind up being someone else’s cautionary tale. although  i probably already am.  

4. If you answered no to the previous question or a partial yes – How do you get back to being yourself?

😀 never went anywhere.  

5. Personally, I feel you’re difficult to put in a box, but in times like these, be it on personal front or professional, how do you get beyond that barrier that others have reluctantly imposed.  

i frequently put myself in a box. that’s the real danger.  

as far as other people go, it all comes down to what you know about  yourself. if you are striving-burning-flying towards one version of  what you think your life should be, and you are uncomfortable with  the skin you’re in, someone else’s you-box will seem boa  constricting, no doubt, no doubt. you will choke on how their box  resembles your own insecurities, or gag on how their box is not the  box you’ve put yourself in.  

6. In one of your interviews, with Barkha Dutt, you spoke about how the industry stereotypes the visual representation of character. While it does exist, you’re amongst the few who have actually managed to bridge the gap, and from the outside you make it look quite easy. How has it been for you who actively advocated on cultivating the art rather than external 


erm. i have kept acting. talk is cheap.  

7. As an actor and a model, what’s your most, out of plenty, favourite joyful learning experience that keeps you going? … and also the most excruciating part that forces you to pause and reflect?  

joyful learning experiences are constant, it’s an infinite spring – the  only real limitation you have is your ability to profit from them.  everyone, everything has lessons, some across the face of things,  some up the sleeve.  

i don’t think i have ever been excruciated. if a person along the way  is horrible, or a situation is horrible, it doesn’t mean storytelling is  horrible. so i’ve never reflected too long on other peoples problems.  complained a bit, probably, yeah.  

Springtide Magazine/ Volume II, Issue 001
Hand-knitted, beige cotton vest, trousers, both from Margn.

8. I believe creative arts needs, if not often, but once in a while a refill to keep going. I read about your dive into spirituality and learning Yoga – what brought you there? Is it a life-style that you follow or believe can help you garner your art better?  

the same narcissistic curiosity that feeds my acting.  

9. Working on what or with whom helped you the most to shape or shine light on the path that you are on? Any anecdotes?  

refer to question 7.  

10. Your take on learning through years of experience, being mentored and self-discovery? Someone like you who has explored and experimented theatre, films and also music videos, what guided  or helped you manoeuvre through these opportunities. 

i find theatre to be the hardest of acting forms. i have watched  actors who just cannot do it on set look absolutely fine on screen.  you can’t do that on stage. everyone knows. you have to keep your  character in mind, keep the rhythm of the scene beating, keep your  relationship with the light and the props in mind, the relationship  with the co actors, the audience in mind, and simultaneously  somehow, flow mindlessly through it. the voice has to be loud  enough.

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11. What helps you, empowers you, motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis? 

music. friends. family. movement.  

Springtide Magazine/ Volume II, Issue 001
Handwoven cotton velvet jacket, handwoven merino wool checkered shirt and handwoven cotton striped pants, all from péro.

12. Leonard Shlain, an American surgeon and author, quoted  “Creativity is a combination of courage and inventiveness. One without the other would be useless.” As an actor and artist, what are your thoughts on it through the roles you played.  

sounds about right. yes you must be inventive. but being inventive  is a skill – you must practice it. if you develop the discipline of  playing with a scene when you rehearse, you will bring that same  inventiveness on stage, or in between action and cut. it does not  appear out of thin air. whenever you work on a scene, allow a  variety of ways to play the scene to flow through you. the answer  that seems most right today, may not be the complete answer a  week from the day; an interpretation, it was, and there are infinite  interpretations. your interpretation will collide with the directors, the  cinematographers, and your co actors. if you have not built flexibility  and inventiveness into the scene, the readjustment will be difficult,  and no actor likes to look slow or silly when everyone else is ready  to go.  

yes you must be brave, brave enough to trust your preparation,  brave enough to make choices that may not work, brave enough to  receive what your co actor presents to you, brave enough to allow  their interpretation to collide head on with yours, brave enough to  see where this collision takes you.  

people understand people – yes they have jobs – but really people  specialise in people. they know things. be inventive, and brave,  because people know what that looks like. 

13. On the same lines, how does two creative individuals working together (eg. actor and director) balance courage and  inventiveness. Considering art is subjective, have you ever landed yourself in situations that probably didn’t yield the creative results you would’ve liked, but still a success.  

commercial success is for producers. i do not worry too much about  that.  

if the situation was not ideal, you grit your teeth, do what you can,  and try not to let your distaste at the situation, your personal  disinterest in the setup, make your character boring. you don’t have  to see any of the people again after the project is done. but people  will have to see what you did. 

14. As a society, we have often been defined or taught to define ourselves by the work we do rather than who we are, though what we do does empower our personality. So, when one does decide to  switch it becomes a whole journey of self-exploration. If not an  actor, what would you have been that wouldn’t have changed who you are right now as an individual.  

wildlife researcher. probably would have been more or less the  same as i am now. more privacy probably. who knows?



Photographer: Sahil Behal
Stylist: Ojas Kolvankar
Editor and Interviewed by: Mitali Joshi
Art Directors: Shreya Jain and Muskaan Jain
Editorial Assistant: Neeharika Nene
Make-up and Hair: Priya Lahon
Styling Assistant: Arshad Shaikh
Talent Manager: Aashian Ahluwalia 
On-ground Agency Manager: Lekha D
Videographer: Omkar Malkar
Video Editor: Rahul Patil
Location: Tungsten Studios

Get your copy of Volume II, Issue 001 here

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