Article Hindi

What is a character actor? All actors are playing a character: Jim Sarbh at IFFI 2018

On 27 November, Sarbh was part of a conversation titled 'Unmasking the Character Actor’, at the 49th International Film Festival of India, held in Goa.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

It is not easy to get recognition for a supporting role in a film as importance is given to the protagonists, even though many a times the supporting cast do a better job than the stars.

It is hard to say for sure when the term 'character actor' became a part of film jargon. It is largely used for artistes who play the supporting cast. Today, however, the categorization is little liked by performers. Actor Jim Sarbh is one of them.

On Tuesday (27 November), Sarbh attended a conversation titled 'Unmasking the Character Actor’, at the 49th International Film Festival of India, held in Goa, along with actress Chitrangda Singh.

Even as the moderator began the session by mentioning the words 'character artiste', Sarbh jumped in with a reproval.

"You know that I’m going to attack this 'character actor'. You know I’m going to go full on aggressive," Sarbh declared.  

“What do you mean by character actor? All actors are playing characters. So, I don’t understand the difference between 'character actor' and any other kind of actors. In general, we make this. We make a clear distinction between hero, villain, and damsel in distress, character actors. It makes no sense to me. None, zero [sic],” Sarbh explained.

The Padmaavat (2018) actor disapproved the classification, saying, "Heroes can be women, villains can be women, damsels in distress can be men. Usually, all people are all of those things at different times in their lives. The men are damsels in distress sometimes and just need to be comforted and told that everything is alright. I don’t know why we continue to make these clear archetypes and continue to force people into certain gender stereotypes, which don’t really exist in the world."

Being on the back foot early on in the session, the moderator shifted the subject to discuss the characters played by Sarbh, who has been appreciated for his performances in Neerja (2016), Padmaavat (2018) and Sanju (2018).

Sarbh played Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh) in the period-drama Padmaavat. Sarbh was asked about his chemistry, on and off screen, with Singh, whether they rehearsed a lot to get into the skin of their respective characters.

"We would do little bit of rehearsal before, but we just loved each other right from the get go. We both had seen enough of each other in whatever [films we had previously done]. He suggested me for the role after seeing me in Neerja (2016). We improvised a lot, we were just good at bouncing off against each other’s energy. The first scenes, the first take was just talking. The second take, I would come with more excitement. He would get more excited in response."

Today, artistes like Pankaj Tripathi, Annu Kapoor, Sanjai Mishra, Neena Gupta, Seema Pahwa, and others, are getting their due credit and their characters are often well fleshed out. Backed by their talent, they leave an impact on the audience. The past though was very different. There have been stories of insecure superstars trying to hog more screen space by getting the roles of the supporting cast trimmed.

Sarbh says he never faced something like that in his career. "So far, nothing like this has happened to me. The actors that I have worked with are pretty happy to have me in the scene and I have been happy to be in the scene with them. All the actors that I have worked with, seem to understand that this is about the scene, it is about making the best scene, it isn’t about one person standing out alone in it.

If you only care about one character in the whole film, you’ll lose interest fairly fast. You have to care about other people as well. You have to care about the conflict and the dynamics between the two. It seems they understand that. So, I have never had that problem."

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