Reality can be stranger than fiction. Perhaps that is the reason Vir Das has successfully managed to bluff his way through the tour of his latest show, Unbelievablish. He narrates true as well as made-up stories about his life — right from losing his virginity to the loss of a loved one, or being cheated on. Nothing is off limits. Saving the best for the last, apparently, the finale is slated for August 9 in Mumbai. And Das is counting on Mumbaikars to sift the real from the fake, and claim the reward: a refund of the ticket.
Over the phone from Delhi, the 37-year-old mentions that this show is special as it marks two major milestones. One, he completes a decade as a comedian and, second, he managed a cumulative half a million ticket sales over three years, a landmark of sorts.
Out of the comfort zone
Das moves away from popular topics like Bollywood, cricket and politics, to talk about home truths: “There are 18 stories covering major points of my life, including my first kiss, getting fired, consuming alcohol and drugs, finding the right life partner, and facing the loss of someone.” He confesses that this was the scariest act as the entire material is personal. “It’s tough to make fun of yourself and find something funny in being sick, heartbroken or being cheated on,” says Das. Terming it a therapeutic experience, Das says the show’s appeal lies in the universality of his stories.
His Unbelievablish tour ran into trouble in Delhi, in April this year, when the police showed up based on a complaint by an audience member about a narrative on the late President APJ Abdul Kalam. Das, who penned an open letter after the incident, shrugs it off: “The police came, attended the show and left. The gentleman who lodged the complaint had already fled. It didn’t affect the show. I don’t think about censorship. As an artiste, I cannot be afraid.”
Being funny is not an easy job. And Das will be the first to admit it. While Unbelievablish was not topical, his other shows such as History of India — VIRitten and Battle of Da Sexes, required three months of research, four months of writing and two months of rehearsals. He also keeps rewriting during the tour. “It is a constant process. The idea is to get better with each act. I still throw up before a show and get scared to death. I hope it never goes away or I will turn arrogant. People are giving up a movie or a dinner plan to make it to my show, so I have to deliver,” he says.
Back in time
While Das is known for his comedy, acting has always been his goal, he says. Born in Dehradun, he grew up in Nigeria, and studied at The Lawrence School — Sanawar (Himachal Pradesh). “I was not the cool kid. I would daydream and be lost in my own world, at home with myself. I am still like that; I am an extrovert only onstage. You need to be an introvert to observe people,” he shares.
He studied theatre and economics at Knox College, Illinois, and was part of the Stanislavsky (method acting) program at Harvard University. Those years also saw him do a range of low-key jobs like waiting tables at a restaurant, working as a security guard, cleaning buildings, working as a painter and a babysitter, which keep him grounded. But eventually, he found his calling doing stand-up. “I began studying to be an actor and instead turned into a comedian. It has taken me a long time to come back,” he says.
Not just comedy
With a film shoot to begin later this month, and his film 31 October being screened at the London Indian Film Festival, Das is upbeat about his film journey: “I didn’t get ‘launched’ by anyone, so I have had to build an audience. It was a gradual process. But the film industry is a friendly place, where there is a lot of hard work and professionalism.”
Though acting takes up most of his time (Unbelievablish happened in the free time before his next acting schedule), Das is in no hurry to stop doing comedy. He is currently busy planning the annual Weirdass Pajama Festival for January 2016.
Apart from acting and comedy, Das is passionate about music. His favourites being Classic Rock bands like The Who, Guns N’ Roses, The White Stripes and The Black Keys. His constant travelling companion is his guitar and he is also learning to play the drums. Boxing is also a passion, with a punching bag occupying a place of pride at his Khar home.
The Unbelievablish quiz --> We put Vir Das to the test:
* Odisha is seeking GI tag for the rosogolla - (True) “Unbelievablish”
* Cricketer Sreesanth is now joining the Pro Kabaddi League - (False) “Believablish”
* The beef ban will be relaxed on Independence Day - (False) “Unbelievablish”
* Anushka Sharma underwent a lip job for Bombay Velvet - (True) "No clue"
Watch Vir Das’s show, Unbelievablish, on August 9.
Where: Sivaswamy Auditorium, The Fine Arts Society, Chembur
Call: 2522 1504
Tickets:Rs 500 onward on bookmyshow.com
(The writer tweets as @SomaRKDas )