It was nerve-wracking: Jim Sarbh on how Julio the clown was born

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He delivers a power-packed performance in Rajat Kumar's MacBeth: What Is Done, Is Done

BY: Ushnota Paul

Jim Sarbh, who stood out as the terrifying terrorist Khalil in Ram Madhvani’s Neerja, plays one of two clowns in Rajat Kumar's stage production MacBeth: What Is Done, Is Done. Kapoor’s modern retelling of Macbeth and Hamlet The Clown Prince has power-packed performances by Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Tillotama Shome, Neil Bhoopalam, and, of course, Jim Sarbh. The actor, who has been praised for his confident outings in A Death in the Gunj, Padmaavat and Sanju, chatted with t2 about how the clown turned both funny and scary.

How challenging is it to play Julio the clown?

It’s very easy since most of the lines were improvised by us earlier. It’s always easier to commit to lines you’ve helped create. Also, we have done quite a few shows, so it is part of my muscle memory now.

Did the play evolve through improvisation during rehearsals?

Yes, it evolved. We were all struggling in the dark trying to manage improvisations, keeping the Shakespearean language in mind, inventing clown characters and trying to be both scary and funny. It was nerve-wracking! Julio was born, when, due to our disastrous attempts at being actual characters from Macbeth, Rajat suggested two clowns come on stage to clean it before the play starts. I stooped a bit, starting with ineffectually sweeping continuously, and tried out a Mexican accent because I like it, or maybe it was a possible conditioned stereotypical association.

How would you describe Rajat Kapoor as a director?

He is a searching director. He is kind and patient and allows the clay to decide what it wants to be without forcing it into a particular shape. He knows where he wants to get to, but isn’t too concerned with how we reach there. He allows us to all go on the journey together. Of course, as a human being, he is like honey.

Theatre requires intensive rehearsals with many actors over a period of time. How difficult is this process?

This particular process, as I mentioned earlier, was extremely difficult, until I found Julio. Then it was pure joy playing around, entering scenes I’m not supposed to be a part of and leaving it up to Rajat to stop me. For a regular play, it comes with its own set of problems and joys, depending on the director, the co-actors and the script. You just can’t sum that up in one sentence.

Did you always want to be an actor?

It was always a part of the plan.

Do you think watching many films helps an actor to be better in his craft?

Yes, it can. It depends on how you watch movies and which movies you watch.

What would you choose if the dates for a film clashed with those of a play?

It depends on the film, it depends on the play.

What’s that one book that changed your life and you’d want to recommend everyone?

Every book you finish changes your life in some way or the other. Right now I’m reading Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup and thoroughly enjoying it.


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