Can you imagine Dipak Shinde aka Bunty from Sacred Games being a gentleman, smiling and talking to women with profound respect? It’s really hard to envisage given his outstanding performance as a notorious gangster in the series.
Turns out, Jatin Sarna is far from his on-screen persona. Being a fan of Akshay Kumar, Jatin was about to experience a dream-come-true moment when he had ‘almost been finalised for an impactful role’ in Airlift. But his dream was shattered when he was replaced by Purab Kohli since the latter was a known face in the industry.
As luck would have it, years later, a similar incident took place in Mumbai when Jatin auditioned for Sacred Games. He, in turn, replaced another actor who was finalised for Bunty’s role and this defined a breakthrough moment in his career in the acting industry in India.
In view of his role in India’s first Netflix web series, Jatin Sarna talks about the difficulty in playing the character of Bunty, his views on nepotism and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. How did you prepare to get into the skin of Bunty’s character?
A. The most important thing for me to focus on was that I had to portray the character of a ruthless man, ek ghinauna aadmi (a disgusting man), one who does not respect relations, and has extreme religious views…
I did not know anyone who was remotely similar to Bunty in real life, and so to prepare for the character was a little difficult. I decided to mix a lot of things to create the final outcome. I learnt Marathi to sound authentic, I paid attention to the way the language is spoken, the tone one uses, and the slangs which are rampant in the area.
Bunty’s take on religion was a very important part of the character, so I had to study how people with extreme views are. During that time (1970s), when the mills were shut down, and Bombay witnessed a major strike, a lot of young men were affected — how these men behaved and led their lives went into the character of Bunty, since he’s a young lad from that time. Representing his body language and that arrogance was tough. I had to work on these things thoroughly.
Q. How different are you from Bunty?
A. There’s no connection between Bunty and me… Unlike Bunty, I respect all religions, and I believe that the presence of different faiths is the beauty of India.
Apart from that, the way he addressed women was a big problem for me. I had to be very careful during the shoot so as to not hurt my co-actors. I apologised to the women after the shoot for the way I, in the skin of Bunty, had to talk or behave with them.
There’s just one thing — we are both passionate. I am very passionate about my work, and Bunty about his line of work. He was ready to give away his life to prove his worth. Passion is the only thing which can be considered common between us, but in very different ways.
Q. Sacred Games, being the first of it’s kind Indian web series, was very bold in terms of the use of language and visuals. What’s your take on that?
A. We were trying to show how things exactly are… So when there’s a love-making scene, people were usually nude, during a crime scene there was the use of guns and abusive language… The characters were people who come from such background.
So we tried our best to portray them the way they are, rather than using innuendos or show things metaphorically. We were in a competition with many other series on an international standard, but yet whatever was shown was necessary, it was a relevant story.
Scenes were not created for the sake of showing nudity or use of abusive language. Furthermore, none of the love-making scenes were very prolonging, they were merely a few seconds long to only show the audience how things are, and to give them a flavour of the character.
Q. Were you hesitant during the shoot of intimate scenes?
A. I was very hesitant and afraid of the very idea. When I was cast for the series, nobody told me that there would be a nude scene. So on the particular day of the shoot, I was a little taken aback.
I went up to Anurag Kashyap and asked him ‘Are we going to do that?’ He said, ‘Yes we are, because it’s important’.
I loved the confidence of the girl, she was very clear about the scene. So, I thought, if she is comfortable and confident, I should be too. And the scene was shot very aesthetically, so there was no awkwardness.
Q. Having worked with Nawazuddin Siddiqui so closely, what have you learnt from him?
A. I admire his calmness… Bohot sanyam rakhte hai (he has a lot of self-control). He has no arrogance or tantrums, and he is very reserved. It is important to reserve your energy during a shoot. From him, I also learnt how one can realistically portray a character with sheer minimalism.
Q. Having struggled for years to get into the industry, do you think a lot of talent remains untapped due to the strong presence of nepotism?
A. I think it is there — and I’m not trying to justify nepotism — but it is very okay on their part.
Their parents have been working in this industry and they have grown up watching everything related to the profession. The only thing which is different for them and actors like me is that they have the access, everything is ready for them. But they also put their heart and soul into their work, just like we do. On the other hand, we have to be prepared for everything that may come our way.
Since we don’t have the access, we have to crack it on our own. Even when star kids do not perform well in a film, they are questioned, the audience today is clever and they know what they want.
Q. What is your dream role?
A. I am very keen on playing a tragic hero. Tragic love stories like ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Laila Majnu’ have always inspired me, that’s the kind of role I want to do. I’m looking forward to playing a passionate lover someday.
Currently shooting in Kanpur for Bamfaad, Jatin is playing an important character in the political love-triangle presented by Anurag Kashyap.