As you walk past the elegant entrance, clusters of bougainvillea in the courtyard greet you at the swanky apartments of Dhanraj Mahal — a posh Art Deco construction located a stone’s throw away from the Gateway of India. The building is an entry into the world of the upper crust. This is something theatre artiste Jim Sarbh tried to capitalise on when he opened a play titled Bull at the Tarq gallery, located in this Parsi hub, on Friday evening.
This Mark Bartlett play is about “bullying” and “power tussles”. Thomas, a misfit in high society, is harassed by his two white-collar competing colleagues in a company that is on the verge of downsizing. The idea of accentuating the play’s message by using the gallery space is not something that had struck Sarbh until he started rehearsing there. “I understood the class conflict in Bull more clearly while walking around and feeling this space. At times, visitors would walk in all dressed up in suits and cravats while we used to rehearse in very casual attires. That got me thinking. I decided to use what’s in the script and use the space to compelling effect,” says Sarbh, who is making his directorial debut with the play.
According to Sarbh, the visitors will start experiencing the hour-long play, whose second show on Saturday starts at 6.30 pm, as soon as they step into the gallery. How he intends to achieve that, he wouldn’t divulge. The Saturday show also marks the culmination of Soghra Khurasani’s solo art exhibition, “One Day It Will Come Out”, that the Colaba gallery has been hosting since April 25. However, during the Bull shows, three large artworks, under the title Braveheart, which present the artist’s interpretations of how a human heart mutates and changes shape and colour as it encounters violence, will form the backdrop for this tale of “corporate heartlessness”. This, Sarbh says, is a “happy coincidence”.
Theatre too happened to be a coincidence for this grandson of gallerist Kali Pundole. While studying psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Sarbh joined a programme where a student could act with professionals. Half of them were student actors and the other half professionals. There, he attended the direction class conducted by Susan Booth, artistic director Alliance Theatre group . Soon, he landed a job in theatre. After Atlanta, he moved to New York and acted in a couple of plays. When he got bored of acting, he returned to India and travelled across the country. “I trekked in the Himalayas, walked up to the Gangotri and lived in an ashram,” he says.
Once back in his hometown, he started calling people and the first role he got was that of a British documentary filmmaker in Ok Tata Bye Bye, written by Purva Naresh. Acting stints in Stories in a Song, The Glass Menagerie, Noises Off, Gates to India Song and Cock followed. With Cock, he became familiar with British playwright Bartlett’s style. “I love his dialogues — the way they are structured with pauses and punctuations. It says a lot about the characters. As an actor, it makes you happy,” he says. Even though he is tempted to act and “can play any of Bull’s characters”, Sarbh has at the moment been enjoying the process of making his cast play with Bartlett’s dialogues.
There is one interesting aspect to the performance. A ticket costing Rs 1,000 will also fetch complimentary beer and wine. Fifty ticket holders will be allowed to hang out at the venue till 9.30 pm, long after the play is over. The play moves to Bandra’s Temperance on June 15, and later to Sitara Studio.