Comedian-Actor Vir Das Says “I'm An Idiot, A Lucky, Lucky Idiot”
"I would say come in with an open mind. The wonderful thing about films are that they tend to draw a crowd for the comedy but a lot of people are shocked by the edge of the material. So if you know me as Bollywood guy, fair enough. But when the show starts you're gonna have to forget that guy," Vir Das Tells DESIBUZZbc.
By R. Paul Dhillon
Vir Das of Delhi Belly and Mastizaade fame, who is one of India’s biggest names in comedy, was to be part of locally-held JFL NorthWest’s star-studded comedy lineup for their inaugural festival taking place this week and next week but due to a scheduling conflict, Das had to drop out.
Das created Weirdass Comedy – India’s first and only comedy consultancy. Weirdass Comedy is a one-stop shop for all comedy needs. Das started his film career with Badmash Company (2010) and followed it up with Delhi Belly (2011), which cemented its place as a cult film in India. In 2013, he appeared in the commercially and critically acclaimed Go Goa Gone, which was India’s first zombie film. He was last seen in the critically acclaimed Revolver Rani (2014).
Das has solidified his place as India’s leading man in the comic space with not only casting assignments, but also with content he has developed himself. In April 2015, Das debuted his brand new show, Unbelievablish, which was a roaring success. Covering seventeen cities in India, Dubai and Singapore, and selling over 35,000 tickets, Unbelievablish is the largest domestic comedy tour ever by an Indian comedian.
DESIBUZZbc had a chance to talk to the comedian ahead of his planned show which was scheduled in February but was sadly cancelled. But here is what he had to tell us.
DESIBUZZbc: Tell us a little about your stand-up comedy – how long you have been doing it?
Vir Das: My stand up comedy is really personal and observational. I'm fascinated by little things; things that one wouldn’t always think were funny. The new show ‘Unbelievable” that I’m bringing to America is the most personal show I have ever written. It's stories from my life that I guess everybody can relate to about falling in love, losing love, getting fired, getting married, falling ill, doing drugs and much more. But more from an Indian point of view.
DESIBUZZbc: Do you tour regularly?
VD: I have been touring for a little over eight years now. I tend to spend about half the year shooting Bollywood films and the rest of the time is spent on the road. I didn't really tour a lot until three years ago but have been blessed in the last three years; we’ve sold over half a million tickets.
DESIBUZZbc: What made this visit to Vancouver, Canada possible?
VD: My agency CAA and my management at Levity thought it would be a good idea for Just For Laughs to experiment with an Indian comedian, given the large Indian population in Canada.
DESIBUZZbc: What can audiences in Vancouver expect from your show?
VD: Whatever you like. Make nudity, unabashed vulgarity, yoga poses, hot pants and Marie biscuits. But mostly it's going to be jokes. (He had to cancel his Vancouver show to scheduling problems but his people are trying to have him come to Vancouver sometime this year.)
DESIBUZZbc: Many NRIs know you mostly from films and television – what would you like to say to them about your stand-up comedy?
VD: I would say come in with an open mind. The wonderful thing about films are that they tend to draw a crowd for the comedy but a lot of people are shocked by the edge of the material. So if you know me as Bollywood guy, fair enough. But when the show starts you're gonna have to forget that guy.
DESIBUZZbc: What do you model your comedy after – the Desi NRI guys like Russell Peters and Sugar Sammy or more mainstream comedians?
VD: I don't. I think there's a vacancy on the world circuit for a comedy voice from India. Where an Indian perspective on worldly things is heard. They are all great artists who have done so much to put Indian comedy on the map. But my accent, my look, my jokes, and my eyes are all from the homeland. I admire them enough to be a fan of their comedy and strive for originality like they have.
DESIBUZZbc: Who are some of your favorite stand up comedians?
VD: My all time favorite comic is Eddie Izard. He seems like he just made it all up on the spot and that's a rare rare talent. He makes history and science funny and is the perfect combo of physicality and words.
DESIBUZZbc: Talk to us about your film career – what are some of the projects you are doing?
VD: I've got five releases in 2016. Mastizaade just came out and is doing very well. Next is Santa Banta a family film, followed by a drama, an action film and a rom-com.
DESIBUZZbc: I just saw a wonderful film – and you were outstanding – in – 31st October – tell us why you chose it – are you Sikh yourself?
VD: I'm not Sikh and so I had to work very hard to get the character right. Put on 11 kilos, grew the beard, spent time with the community and learned the language. It's my first drama so I'm hoping it’s received well.
DESIBUZZbc: It’s a great film on the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in New Delhi and you are a brave actor but did you have concerns in taking on the lead role?
VD: Not really. To me it's a simple story about a man trying to save his family. The fact that it's true only makes it a more important story to tell.
DESIBUZZbc: When will that film release? Is there a ban or some sort on the film or will be it released this year?
VD: It will be out in the second half of the year.
DESIBUZZbc: You are a great dramatic actor from what I saw in 31st October and on the flip side you are doing a completely 360 degree opposite – Mastizaade – in which you allegedly run nude on a Mumbai ocean front? Tell us about this dichotomy?
VD: I decided to get the hell out of the box this year. I'm mixing it up. Hopefully the audience can see some range and go on this ride with me.
DESIBUZZbc: You consider yourself a comedian, an actor or entertainer of all of those things?
VD: I'm an idiot. That's all I consider myself. A lucky, lucky idiot.