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Jim Sarbh on his YouTube show Crew Cut: ‘We flip the narrative by having actors interview film crew’

The Made in Heaven and Rocket Boys actor on what Crew Cut is all about and the magic of filmmaking

VIDHI BUBNA Calcutta Published 13.02.24, 11:00 AM
Jim Sarbh

Jim Sarbh

From Rocket Boys to Made in Heaven, from Neerja to Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, Jim Sarbh has earned critical and popular acclaim with a series of memorable roles in recent years. Instead of doubling down on the limelight, Sarbh wishes to share it. With those whose roles in filmmaking often get overlooked, if not forgotten altogether.

As part of his new YouTube show called Crew Cut, which debuted on January 13, Sarbh wants to discuss and document the work of crew members — cinematographers, editors, sound artists and more — who give a film not just its heart and soul but also its bones and muscles. Sarbh spoke to The Telegraph Online about the vision behind Crew Cut, potential interviewees and how it feels to be on the other side of the mic.

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Tell us more about Crew Cut and what inspired you to create the YouTube series.

Jim Sarbh: Crew Cut is an interview show created by Zoya Hussain (actor and writer) and myself, where we flip the narrative. Actors aren’t the ones interviewed, they do the interviewing. They interview the storytellers we don’t usually hear from — the crew. Zoya and I love films and are fascinated by the process by which they come into being. It’s a kind of magic and intensely collaborative.

We have lots of friends who are part of the filmmaking crew, and we want to interview them alongside many others. We want to produce the show on our own terms, and hopefully with consistency. We want to have a cultural document of some of the best crew members of the Indian filmmaking industry. We’re constantly amazed at how much work goes into all the aspects of filmmaking, and we want a wider audience to meet these storytellers, to hear about how creative their so-called technical jobs are. We’ve got actors to do the interviewing because they would be lending their fame to the crew members. Perhaps you come for Vidya Balan, but you leave thinking about Niharika Bhasin (costume designer).

As someone who is interviewed so often, what does it feel to be on the other end and interview other people?

Jim Sarbh: It’s great! I get to shut up and learn things.

Do you see yourself taking up roles other than acting in films? What crew roles are you interested in playing?

Jim Sarbh: I’m fascinated by all of them. I don’t think too much about the future, though.

Who is the first crew member you connected with deeply?

Jim Sarbh: I’ve always had musician friends. I suppose if I were a very talented musician, I’d give up acting immediately. Music is such a beautiful art, it’s pure and evocative and collaborative, an incredible way to connect beyond language and form.

My first roommate in Mumbai was Naren Chandavarkar, a film composer. He’s one of my best friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his career develop. I had the privilege of interviewing him and his work partner, Benedict Taylor, and hearing how passionately, humorously and clearly they can talk about what they do still makes me wryly shake my head.

An actor must be 100 per cent focused on their role and their character arc. In a way, they have to be selfish. And I wouldn’t fault an actor for that, I understand how useful it can be. But an editor, or a cinematographer, or a film composer has to understand the whole as well as every moving part within a story. They are constantly telling the story of those moments, and the whole, simultaneously.

Made in Heaven has received a lot of acclaim. Are you interviewing any crew members from the series?

Jim Sarbh: Yes, absolutely. We interviewed Namrata Rao, the editor, and more interviews are lined up.

Is Crew Cut your way to empower young people to get an insider’s view of the industry?

Jim Sarbh: I don’t know if I’d say empower but I’d like all people, not necessarily just young ones, to see the crew as creative forces who work very hard to eventually seem invisible. They help an audience engage, focus attention and have emotional experiences but all in service of the overall story. Ideally, they don’t call attention to themselves in a way that’s distracting. Instead, they help you experience the story more fully.

How are you planning to engage in marketing for Crew Cut to ensure it reaches more people?

Jim Sarbh: This interview is a good start! We don’t have an advertising budget. We just hope to be consistent and make a great show. We hope you go to our YouTube page and subscribe and like or whatever, but mostly, we just want you to watch. If you like it, tell people. Find a way to reach out to us with your questions. With your suggestions for who you’d like for us to interview. We hope that if you engage with the show, you’ll find yourself watching a movie thinking — damn, who wrote the score for this? Damn, the costumes look great! I wonder who designed them. Those prosthetics looked so real and were so effective — I really thought he got stabbed in the leg! I wonder how the make-up artist created that. Once you have those questions, ask us, so we can ask them.

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