“ANY­BODY WHO WOULD PASS UP THIS ROLE, WOULD HAVE BEEN AN Id­iot!”

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY - Words DIVYA RAMNANI

An in­ter­view with the pow­er­house per­former JIM SARBH was just not an in­ter­view, it was an ex­pe­ri­ence. Apart from giv­ing a ter­rific per­for­mance on screen, he made sure that his in­ter­view too was a thriller. In fact, a com­plete cliff-hanger, the man who played Ma­lik Ka­fur, the lover of the bi­sex­ual Alaud­din Khilji to per­fec­tion, in his de­light­ful ac­cent went from be­ing jovial to sound­ing ex­as­per­at­edly ir­ri­tated real quick. Nev­er­the­less it was both fun and chal­leng­ing. Read on, as the ac­tor en­gag­ingly talks about his lat­est film Pad­maa­vat, his ec­static jour­ney in Bol­ly­wood so far and more... You have had a great ca­reer in the­atre, what made you shift to movies?

Who said? I was au­di­tion­ing for films the whole time I was do­ing the­atre. Peo­ple al­ways like to struc­ture these two things as sep­a­rate. The usual bi­nary bi­nary con­ver­sa­tion. Why?

Af­ter mak­ing a re­mark­able de­but in Neerja, how is your ca­reer shap­ing up so far?

It is go­ing pretty well, I think.

Raabta was a dud at the Box of­fice, did that kind of de­mo­ti­vate you?

No it didn’t de­mo­ti­vate me, I think it makes you just more wary of which film you should choose and how you should make your choices. Al­though look­ing back on the events: given that Neerja was the only film that I had acted in, at that point of time I took a gam­ble on a big com­mer­cial film that was all set to have a huge plat­form. I feel the hind­sight is al­ways 20-20, you can look back and see what may have hap­pened to re­sult in Raabta’s fail­ure, and that might be painful, but you can’t stop your­self from mov­ing for­ward.

How did Pad­maa­vat hap­pen?

I au­di­tioned: the story goes that Ran­veer Singh sug­gested me for the part, and then Shruti Ma­ha­jan con­tacted me and sent me the au­di­tion piece while I was in Las Ve­gas for a play called What is Done is Done di­rected by Ra­jat Kapoor. Af­ter I got this au­di­tion sides, I looked up who these peo­ple were and made sure I un­der­stood the au­di­tion com­pletely and then I just did it. Friends helped me, some­body shot it and another friend played Alaud­din Khilji, the au­di­tion scene was my in­tro­duc­tion scene in Pad­maa­vat. I then sent the clip to Shruti at about 2:20 am in Las Ve­gas, it must have been around 12 or 2 pm in Bom­bay and in 20 min­utes, I got a re­sponse say­ing, ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions. I just showed it to sir, you are locked for the part’.

Your thoughts on por­tray­ing Ma­lik Ka­fur?

Ma­lik Ka­fur is a mis­chievous char­ac­ter; he is kind of like that fool in the Shake­spearean sense who ca­vorts with kings and courtiers, with­out tak­ing their world all too se­ri­ously. He doesn’t have a per­sonal agenda in the same way as other peo­ple do, he is con­fi­dent in his place

and his love, and so he can be out­spo­ken and he can say what he wants to say any­way, even if it means get­ting slapped, no big deal. I don’t think that he cares so much about this world and these hyp­ocrit­cal peo­ple. That said, I also think Ma­lik Ka­fur has a ledger in his head of the mis­treat­ments upon him. He re­mem­bers ev­ery­thing.

Your per­for­mance as Ma­lik Ka­fur is be­ing heav­ily praised by the au­di­ence, how do you feel?

Feels great!

How is Ran­veer Singh as a costar?

Ran­veer is a won­der­ful co-ac­tor. I think he is lovely, he is a cool guy. If the shoot was de­layed, we would re­lax and chat wait­ing for our shot. Ran­veer is full of en­ergy, he al­ways comes up with ideas or new and in­ter­est­ing ways to ex­press a scene, that may not be the most ob­vi­ous choice, that he then car­ries. He is very re­ac­tive, so I never feel like I am per­form­ing in one room and he is per­form­ing in another room, and the edi­tor will stitch to­gether the story. I felt like ev­ery­thing was de­pen­dent on each other, his per­for­mance is com­pli­ment­ing mine, and vice versa.

Tell us your ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with San­jay Leela Bhansali…

I re­ally like him, I feel very glad that I have been able to work with him be­cause I learnt so many things. First of all the things that I learnt are the ba­sics that ev­ery film ac­tor should know, be it fram­ing, mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, adap­ta­tion and ba­si­cally how to act in front of the cam­era. Be­cause he de­mands that kind of pre­ci­sion and in ad­di­tion to that, he is a kind of di­rec­tor wherein if he gets the idea that you can do it, he won’t be sat­is­fied un­til he gets the best out of you and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that. I like it when the per­son is on my side and is al­ways try­ing to push me to do bet­ter than I try to do and so I al­ways try to come up with more. I think we ar­rived on the same page about the char­ac­ter, mid­way through the first sched­ule: he had his own ideas

Af­ter send­ing my au­di­tion tape, within 20 min­utes, I got a re­sponse say­ing, ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions. I just showed it to sir, you are locked for the part’.

about how my char­ac­ter should be and I was com­ing out with my own ideas about it and at some point we kind of hit the sweet spot of ir­rev­er­ence and wicked mis­chief: we un­der­stood each oth­ers’ ideas, and in­cor­po­rated them into our own.

Was there any clash of ideas or opin­ions be­tween you and San­jay Leela Bhansali?

Not ex­actly a clash, some­times I might want to try some­thing and Sir would have a dif­fer­ent idea re­gard­ing, how a par­tic­u­lar scene should go in terms of the over­all struc­ture. I tried to squeeze in my sug­ges­tions any­way, some­times he would ac­cept it and some­times, he would say ‘no’ take it out and I had to trust the di­rec­tor. So many times when he would sug­gest some­thing that I never thought of, it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing. For in­stance, I had some ideas of run­ning in that scene where it’s me, Alaud­din and Mehrunisa but San­jay Sir sug­gested that I should also get up and start braid­ing Alaud­din’s hair so that Mehru and I are look­ing at each other over Alaud­din’s head. So that kind of thing is what Sir sug­gested and I was like, oh yeah! That’s a great idea, I can do that. We had a lot of fun craft­ing this char­ac­ter.

What is your take on the con­tro­versy that em­broiled Pad­ma­vati to be­come Pad­maa­vat?

Less said, the bet­ter. Why give some­thing im­por­tance that doesn’t de­serve im­por­tance?

Ac­cord­ing to the au­di­ence, Khilji would have been in­com­plete with­out Ka­fur in the film and vice-versa. Your thoughts on that?

What is your thought about that? Be­cause for me, it’s the au­di­ence in­ter­pre­ta­tion that mat­ters. And it’s over­whelm­ing. I feel like for me it comes down to a sim­ple truth: if you want to look at Alaud­din Khilji as a man and not as a mon­ster or that larger than life im­age he por­trays for the rest of the world, see him through Ma­lik Ka­fur’s eyes.

Ka­fur is some­one shown as ex­tremely sar­cas­tic, out­spo­ken and mis­cheiv­i­ous, are you sim­i­lar in real life? No, I’m very sin­cere, soft spo­ken, and shy.

You play a bi-sex­ual in Pad­maa­vat, what made you take up the role? I don’t know about taboos, I don’t know about the film in­dus­try or any of these things. It was a cool role, I took it. Any­body who would pass up this role, would have been an id­iot.

What kind of prepa­ra­tions did you go through for this role? Noth­ing re­ally, just learned my lines.

In terms of body lan­guage or ac­cent? Oh yes sorry, def­i­nitely… lots of Urdu classes and ac­cent train­ing. And a lot of phys­i­cal ex­er­cise to get my body look­ing lean, alive and war­rior like. Ka­fur is not a huge war­rior like Alaud­din Khilji is, he is a dif­fer­ent kind of war­rior, some­one who is grace­ful and ef­fi­cient. But as it was shown

I re­ally like San­jay Sir, I feel very glad that I have been able to work with him be­cause I learnt so many things.”

that in the cli­max where Ratan Singh is charg­ing to­wards Khilji, Ka­fur asks Alaud­din whether he should go in­stead be­cause he is that con­fi­dent as a fighter. Once the sword is out, he is ready to kill or be killed, he’s deadly; for that it re­quired me to be phys­i­cally pre­pared. For the Urdu ac­cent, a lady named Muneera Su­rati helped me and Sar­faraaz ji helped me with my Afghani ac­cent. In re­al­ity, Ka­fur was ac­tu­ally a Gu­jarati slave but for the pur­pose of this film and to sim­plify it so that peo­ple don’t get con­fused, I was pre­sented as an Afghani slave brought spe­cially as a nayyaab gift.

Ran­veer said he was so af­fected by the char­ac­ter of Khilji that he had to con­sult a psy­chi­a­trist; did you also go through a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion?

No, noth­ing like that. For me it was more like, Ka­fur doesn’t take peo­ple or this world se­ri­ously. He is loyal and has been given as a slave to some­body and his work ends there. Ran­veer prob­a­bly has to con­sult a psy­chi­a­trist for all sorts of rea­sons (Laughs).

Was there any kind of awk­ward­ness while shoot­ing for any scene?

No, there was not.

Did you ever think that you will be able to pull off such an un­usual role like this, with so much of ease?

Ya, why not? I don’t like your use of the word ‘un­usual,’ so I’m not go­ing to an­swer this ques­tion

prop­erly. And you know why. It’s not un­usual. It’s a per­fectly nor­mal role.

Have you ever been hit on by the same sex?

That’s my per­sonal life and has noth­ing to do with you.

Is play­ing the an­tag­o­nist, your top-most pref­er­ence in films?

No, and once again it’s be­cause of the ques­tions like these I am stereo­typed as the vil­lain. It’s like you are ask­ing me about be­ing stereo­typed, while stereo­typ­ing me. I won­der. How many times will I have to say this? Will any­one ever un­der­stand?

Who are the di­rec­tors with whom you would want to work with in the near fu­ture?

I would want to work with lots of di­rec­tors. Vishal Bhard­waj, Anurag Kashyap, Vikra­ma­ditya Mot­wane, Hansal Me­hta, Zoya Akhtar, Nitya Mehra and some more new up­com­ing di­rec­tors, I want to work with ev­ery­one.

Lastly, any mes­sage for your STAR­DUST read­ers?

Ya. Hey, thank you for ev­ery­thing. Lots of love!

Ran­veer is full of en­ergy, he al­ways comes up with ideas or new and in­ter­est­ing ways to ex­press a scene.”

...A still from Pad­maa­vat

...A still from Neerja

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