I became famous after 'Sacred Games', says Jatin Sarna as he readies for the release of '83'
The magic of Bollywood never fades and it will always be the city of dreams for starry eyed people who arrive in droves to Mumbai to pursue their hopes and chase their ambitions.
Each day around 2,000 aspiring actors roll into this city and while some of them conquer all odds and succeed, others depart in despair.
Jatin Sarna, best known known for his role as Bunty in Netflix’s famous web series, Sacred Games, made a big impact on the screen as Nawazuddin Siddiqui's hitman. But this was not where he started. There was a phase in his life when he came to Mumbai with big dreams but had to head back as he found no work in the city.
Jatin talks to YSWeekender about his journey to Bollywood and his new role in the film, 83.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YSWeekender: When did you decide you wanted to be an actor and how did you succeed?
Jatin Sarna: Watching actors on the silver screen always fascinated me. I have always felt that I found my calling in acting.
To pursue my dreams, I enrolled in a part-time acting course in Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts in Delhi. I was 21 years old then and being a Delhiite I knew that I could find my-kind-of-atmosphere only in Mandi House, which is the home of some of the oldest theatres and concert halls in the country. You will always see several aspiring artists hanging around there, some sipping tea, some improvising on their scripts, and some performing in street shows (nukkad natak). In 2006, when I joined SRC, I became a part of that crowd.
After completing a two-year acting course, I joined a repertory company that paid me a nominal amount of money.
In 2009, while I was working with the company, I got a small role in a Doordarshan serial– Kyunki Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. I played the character of a village boy, Chander. One year later, I bagged the role of INA soldier Shaqir in the film, Gandhi to Hitler movie which was being shot in Delhi.
“I realised that my work was slowly getting noticed. It was an achievement for me but on the other hand, it wasn’t enough to stay in people’s memories or in any director’s mind.”
I started doing theatre to satiate the actor inside me. At that time, I had no money and no contacts in the Maximum City.
Jatin Sarna, in one of the scenes of web series- Sacred Games
YSW: NSD and FTII are the main institutions for aspiring actors. Why did you take another route?
JS: Yes, National School of Drama (NSD) and Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) are sought -after institutions for most aspiring actors but I couldn’t get in. I did want to join NSD but at that time I wasn’t a graduate and they admit only graduates in that institution. For FTII, I didn’t have money to pay the fees and so, I settled for what I could get and was happy.
I also believe that acting is natural. It cannot be taught. In acting institutes, you only improvise on the technique of acting.
YSW: When did you decide to go to Mumbai?
JS: In 2011, when I couldn’t find any more work, I became restless. An actor’s life is very aspirational but, when there is an empty road ahead, it is easy to lose hope.
That year, I decided to take a leap of faith and boarded a train to Mumbai without a second thought. I was aware that I had no work and I knew nobody, but I wanted to go and see how things worked in the industry and take a chance.
But it wasn’t a cakewalk. I stayed with a friend in Malad and in just 15-20 days I realised, I couldn’t survive in Mumbai without any work.
“All the auditions used to be in Andheri West and commuting from Malad was expensive. I didn’t even have a portfolio (which I don’t even have now) because it was too costly to make. It was an immature decision to come to Mumbai but, it was a lesson learned. So, I headed back to Delhi again.
Jatin Sarna in one of his plays
After going back to Delhi, I got into the theatre scene again. After trying for two years, I got an offer to play a role in the movie Saat Uchakkey, which was being shot in Delhi. I was playing alongside Manoj Bajpai and this was a big achievement for me. The movie was supposed to release in 2014 but was out in 2016. Soon after this, I got a role in the movie Meeruthiya Gangsters, which Manoj Bajpai referred me for. Meeruthiya Gangsters hit the theatres before Saat Uchakkey and after both the movies were released, people started noticing me.
But an actor’s career always has its ups and downs. After wrapping up the shoot for the two movies in 2015, I got no work for the next two years again. Though I played two-three small roles, there was no recognition.
“There was a phase when I wanted to leave everything behind. My passion for acting never died, but my hopes for the future had shattered.”
In 2017, I headed to Mumbai again. This time too, I had no work on hand. But I had gathered some experience in acting. In the initial days, I stayed with my friend Pradeep Nagar and Vikas Bahari (also actors) who supported me throughout my tough times.
Jatin Sarna with his best friends Vikas Bahari (L) and Pradeep Nagar
YSW: How did you get a role in Sacred Games?
JS: After I reached Mumbai, I started attending auditions. One day, while Pradeep was getting ready to go for an audition, I went along with him. We entered the studio but Pradeep had some urgent work and had to leave. I took part in the audition instead.
The casting director gave me a few lines to read out, which Anurag Kashyap liked. He had already seen my work in Meeruthiya Gangsters, and soon, I got to play the role of Bunty in Sacred Games.
This series proved to be a turning point in my life. I was in the industry for eleven years but it was only after Sacred Games, that people began to recognise me.
YSW: What projects are ahead and where do you see yourself in the industry in a few years?
JS: After Sacred Games was aired, I got to know about an upcoming film 83, a biopic based on the life of veteran cricketer Kapil Dev, played by Ranveer Singh. The casting directors were considering me for the role of cricketer Madan Lal but that didn’t happen and so they offered me another role as I am relatively unknown in the industry.
83 movie cast and Jatin Sarna with Director Kabir Khan
After a few days, I got a call from them asking for a clip of a batting shot because director Kabir Khan wanted to test me for the role of cricketer Yashpal Sharma. They were casting eleven actors depicting the original cricket players. I got the role and soon, we began the shooting. The movie is releasing in the box office on April 10 this year, and I am really looking forward to it.
I continue to do theatre and recently I directed a play called Veer Abhimanyu which was running in Delhi.
An unknown boy has become a known face now. What lies ahead, I don’t know, but I just want to stay strong and stay here for long.
(Edited by Asha Chowdary)