After a great year with Sacred Games, the actor has a newly-released webseries and more this year

The second episode of Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa, a recent webseries by United Breweries’ branded content channel, Cheers!, opens with a scene that is familiar to any Indian college student: a senior ragging his juniors. What makes this somewhat common scene different is its sharp writing and quick wit — elements that, unfortunately, feel forced in the rest of the series. Also unique is the presence of a college senior whose face is instantly recognisable to millions of Indians who consume their entertainment online: Jatin Sarna.

Delhi-born Sarna’s portrayal of the brutal and ruthless Bunty, right-hand man to Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde, in the 2018 Netflix series Sacred Games, made him an overnight sensation. Praise came in from critics as well as scores of fans who showed their admiration for his work through memes and parody videos, including one from MensXP called If Bunty Had A Desk Job, which has over four million views on YouTube.

Back in time

He never expected the reception to his character to be as overwhelming as it has been. “Nobody had any idea that it’s going to be that huge, that massive,” he reminisces.

Sacred Games made Sarna, a 34-year old thespian who has produced work across mediums (including television shows), an exciting actor to watch, which is why it is disappointing to see him present in only two scenes in the Cheers! webseries, the final episode of which aired in late December. “This is what I had done before Sacred Games,” he clarifies. The shoot for the show took place in 2016, after Sarna’s break in Zeishan Quadri’s film Meeruthiya Gangsters. “The casting director spotted me and told me that there is a role that needs an actor who can put more authority into the character.”

At the time, the draw for Sarna came from both the calibre of talent involved — the main cast comprises of Vijay Varma (Pink, Monsoon Shootout) and Patralekha Paul (City Lights) — and the fact that the show would be filmed in Goa, allowing him to work and be on vacation simultaneously.

The actor in a still from ‘Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa’

The actor in a still from ‘Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa’
 
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The road ahead

While Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa is a mostly forgettable watch — a meandering narrative and subpar production quality, coupled with the two-year delay make it difficult to go through — it offers an interesting glimpse at a pre-Bunty Sarna. The coiled menace and pathological sadism of Bunty are transformed into the more light-hearted naughtiness of the college senior. I ask him if he is worried about being typecast in aggressive and intimidating roles. “Not at all,” he says. “If I like something of that sort, be it authoritative, or ruthless, if I can bring out something different for that character, then it’s fine for me.”

Role prep

The actor shares that finding work after Meeruthiya Gangsters was challenging. So when Bunty came along, he decided to give it his all. “From learning the language, to getting into the skin of the character to play this Marathi guy, I tried everything possible to make Bunty look ruthless,” he says. Sarna also believes in the power of preparation. “When I do a play, I focus only on that character, and it takes 10 to 15 days to get over it.”

His upcoming projects, he promises, will all be unique. “Every release of mine this year has a different character.” There is the Chambal-set dacoit drama Sonchiriya where he plays husband to Bhumi Pednekar. Bumfaad is a Lucknowi love story and political drama, while Om is an all-out action flick, with the actor doing most of his own stunts (the night before we spoke, he had suffered from a dog bite during a stunt on set).

And then there is the hotly-anticipated second season of Sacred Games. While Anurag Kashyap will be returning to direct the show’s period storyline, Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan will replace Vikramaditya Motwane to helm its present-day narrative. Considering what happens to Bunty in the first season (no spoilers here), was Sarna disappointed that he would not get to work with the show’s new director? He is quick to correct my assumption. “The AD from Ghaywan’s team called me up and told me that he’ll be shooting with me.” Just as anything seems possible in the world of Bunty, so too is the case with Sarna in 2019.

All episodes of Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa are streaming on YouTube.

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