We talk with the actor and comedian Vir Das, perhaps best-known for his role in Aamir Khan’s 2011 comedy Delhi Belly. On Saturday, Das will bring his stand-up act History of India — VIRitten to Dubai.
Bollywood comedian Vir Das to make Dubai debut
The Bollywood comedian Vir Das can make anything sound funny, even boring history lessons. The self-proclaimed history nerd’s stand-up routine History of India — VIRitten, by Ashwin Gidwani Productions, is a quirky, laugh-filled look at Indian history. It has already had 100 sell-out shows since debuting in India in 2010, and will be in Dubai on Saturday at the JW Marriott Marquis.
How did the idea of turning history into comedy come about?
I had always been a history buff and wanted it to be a little more entertaining. When I started watching comedians like Eddie Izzard, I realised that history and intellectual subjects could be made entertaining.
Can you tell us a little bit about the different pieces of history that will feature in this shows? Will it only be satire about historic events?
It’s our entire journey as a nation and everything that was funny about it. It always begins from a historical fact and kind of tumbles into something crazy.
Have you ever had to alter the script to prevent negative reactions to more culturally or politically sensitive matters?
Every joke is at somebody’s expense and we have to live with that. Yes, at times we have to keep regional sensitivities in mind before performing, so altering the script a bit becomes essential. Comedy can’t be restrictive by nature. I spent one and a half years writing this. Why would I spend 18 months writing about something I hate? I love my country, and nothing can change that. Barack Obama visited India, everybody made a billion jokes. Ditto with the Commonwealth Games. Are you telling me, that if 100 years from now someone tries to joke about these exact same things, suddenly it’s sacrilegious? Why should I be afraid to express myself? If I think it and I wrote it, I’m jolly well saying it.
Do you have a favourite creative person that you binge watch?
Bill Cosby. To me he is the king of observational humour. He could do 16 minutes on cleaning your teeth, something you never thought was funny, and change the way you clean your teeth for the rest of your life. That’s talent.
Has there been a time during any routine where the audience did not laugh at a joke? How did you handle the situation?
I have a huge responsibility to people because I deal in happiness. It’s the only art form where you are obligated and contracted to make people feel better than when they walked in the door, to make them happy. I make sure I find a way to make them laugh.
What else is keeping you busy in films and on stage?
Let’s just say I have five releases this year: an action movie, a children’s film, a romcom, a drama and a comedy. It’s jam packed.
• History of India — VIRitten is at JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai on March 29 at 8pm. Tickets are priced from Dh200 and are available at timeouttickets.com
Did you know? Vir can sing, too
Vir Das formed Alien Chutney, a comedy rock band, in 2006 after receiving positive reviews on the blend of music and humorous lyrics in Walking on Broken Das, a popular standup show. Das, who is the frontman, roped in guitarist Warren Mendonsa, Sidd Coutoo on drums, Gaurac Gupta on bass and keyboardist Kaizad Gherda to create the band. Their lyrics are about everything — villagers, sabziwalle (vegetable seller) and pakodas (fritters) — set to death metal, fusion jazz and pop compositions. They are currently recording their first live album, Bom In Live Bay.
* Afshan Ahmed