Why 2017 Is The Year of Sarbh

ARTWORK: MIRA MALHOTRA

Very few non-names in Bollywood are able to unintentionally steal the limelight in a film from A-listers the way Jim Sarbh was able to do last year in Neerja, a film that also starred Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi

Shortly after the film’s release, the newcomer garnered a gargantuan stan following that included revered film critics and legions of girls, many whom he was oddly able to charm the pants off of while playing a terrorist.

But if 2016 was just a warm-up for Jim Sarbh, then 2017 could very well be his definitive year.

With roles in three upcoming surefire blockbuster hits, its highly likely that we will soon see Sarbh rise through the Bollywood stratosphere.

The first film, Raabta, slated for a June release, stars Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon and is reportedly a comedic film that will hopefully allow audiences to see a wholly different side to the actor. Versatility is after all, the hallmark of any great actor. Bigger than Raabta though are Sarbh’s subsequent releases: Dutt, a biopic on Sanjay Dutt that’s directed by Bollywood’s most decorated filmmaker, Rajkumar Hirani and Padmavati, another lavish period drama epic from lavish period drama epic auteur, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

These three big films could not only turn Jim Sarbh into a household name but more importantly, could land him lead roles.

With roles in three upcoming surefire blockbuster hits, its highly likely that we will soon see Jim Sarbh rise through the Bollywood stratosphere.

This is because, aside from good looks and talent, both of which Sarbh has in spades, Indians nowadays it seems respect and admire brazenness and worldliness in their media figures i.e. people who have an expanded worldview and who also say it like they mean it. This is indeed the age when All India Bakchod and riot grrrl Kangana Ranaut are seen as  exalted rock stars.

Sarbh is cut from the same cloth.

His work, interviews and even social media accounts are a reflection of that. In fact, the first thing I noticed about his Twitter account was that the unconventional actor has on an expressionist Egon Schiele painting as his background picture. And his pre-Neerja life consisted of acting in and directing plays and films that many in the reserved Bollywood sphere would never have the balls to even look at – plays with titles like Cock, an experimental play that Sarbh directed that delves into the fluidity of sexuality.

Sarbh, ever the non-conformist, wore a cravat at this year’s Filmfare Awards where he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor award.

As for his interviews, he has no qualms about dropping the “F” bomb at will and even talking openly about his porn fetishes. This might come off as commonplace for an actor from another country’s film industry but for India, its not only downright unheard of but also unquestionably liberating.

Yes, there’s a strong chance that a counterculture personality like Jim Sarbh could be the next big Bollywood superstar because commerce and freaky deeky-ness are thankfully no longer strange bedfellows in India.

Rashad

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