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Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Padmaavat is getting a lot of positive reviews from all over the world. Other than Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, one character who is being hugely lauded is Jim Sarbh, who plays Alauddin Khilji's slave-general and confidant Malik Kafur. Bhansali has beautifully explored the layers of Malik Kafur and his bond with Alauddin Khilji.
In an exclusive chat with FilmiBeat, Jim Sarbh says, 'I could not have expected this kind of response. I hoped it would resonate, as we always do.' Here he shares his experience of working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, his equation with Ranveer and much more.
Excerpts from the interview....
Everyone has been raving about your character Malik Kafur. Did you expect this kind of response?
I enjoyed working on the film, and I know we had tried to make the scenes interesting and dynamic and true. However, I could not have expected this kind of response. I hoped it would resonate, as we always do.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is considered as one of the finest film-makers of Bollywood. How was your experience of working with him?
I truly enjoyed it. He has taught me all the basic things that a film actor should know - how to manipulate things, eye-line, the magnification of the frame, the power of imagination, the awareness of the camera, etc.
Specifically, however, it has helped me to understand precision, that there is a beat to the scene and the line has to come at that beat, and you have to find the way to make it come at that beat, you must find the motivation, you must find the way so that it appears natural. And once you know the beat of the scene then you can play around with slightly early, or slightly late, to surprising effect. But first you must find the beat.
He has helped me think of the economy of a gesture - extra is only necessary if it is absolutely necessary, otherwise see how simply you can convey your point.
He always pushes you 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 ready to restructure the scene accordingly, from the lines, to the camera set up.
Therefore, if you can find a new way to approach something, he often incorporates it into the scene, in addition of course to throwing new things at you that you might not have considered; often this new addition becomes the fulcrum of the scene, and through it, you can find different ways to express an otherwise fairly straightforward scene.
How did you approach the role? What was your first thought on the character of Malik Kafur?
Shruti Mahajan contacted me. I auditioned. I got the part. I read the script. I thought of him as a lithe, fierce black panther, who slinks around with his big, grizzled tiger, master Alauddin Khilji.
He is a slave. As a slave, he has hit the jackpot. He doesn't take people very seriously. He finds them amusing, them and their very obvious, silly motivations. He's like the fool, cavorting around with kings and queens, irreverent and if so commanded, deadly.
In a recent interview, Ranveer Singh said that Jim made him look good as Alauddin. How was your experience working with him?
I felt my character could easily understand his principles, because I was a version of him, just born in very different circumstances. Kafur was also extremely ambitious, dangerous, and was not bound by the same morals and scruples as the people around them. A good pair of sociopaths.
Ranveer is a wonderful co-actor, the kind of actor where we are always hoping to strike magic. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't, but the attempt was always there. He is always bringing new ideas and fresh energy to the set, and he was always kind and supportive of me. I would be messing up takes, over and over again, somehow not cracking the moment, and he would not bat an eyelid: if he was frustrated, he didn't let me feel it, he shielded me from it, and instead was supportive and showed he believed in me. What more can you ask for?
He is also, of course, a wonderful human being.
So what was the most challenging part about playing Malik?
The schedule. A year and three days. Trying to keep the character true, consistent and fresh.
Neerja, Death in the Gunj, Raabta and now Padmaavat, on what basis do you choose films? Is it about your characters or the production?
All of these films, I wanted to do because they were the only ones offered to me. Hahahaha.
Your thoughts on the whole Padmaavat controversy, as it also hampered movie's business a bit.
Less said the better. Whole conversation ends at, "But have you seen the film?"
There are rumours that you are playing Salman Khan in Rajkumar Hirani's Dutt biopic? Is it true?
"Rumor is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav'ring multitude,
Can play upon it."
Henry IV, Part 2, William Shakespeare.
Your upcoming projects? When can your fans see you next?
I have a day left on ‘Made in Heaven' a web series helmed by Zoya Akhtar and Nitya Mehra, which I have enjoyed working on for the last few months.
I am also in a web series called ‘Smoke,' and am wondering when that will see the light of day.
I have also acted in a film called ‘Teen Aur Aadha,' directed by Dar Gai, with Zoya Hussain. I am hoping that receives a theatrical release, because it is a very sensitive and beautiful script. Three stories occurring in the same house, the same room, are told with three long takes, each about 30-40 minutes long.
Jonaki, for which I am currently in Rotterdam, just had its world premiere at IFFR. In this film, I play the lover of the lead protagonist, a lady in a coma, going back through the experiences in her life in dream sequences.