It is easier to make people cry than to make the same faces stretch to a smile. If one can do both at the same time, it has to be the talented Vir Das. From Illinois to Harvard University to now a standup comedian, actor and singer, he has made a long journey. Day before his comic tour ‘Unbelievablish’ comes to Chandigarh, HT City talked to the man referred to as ‘India’s only true comic’ about his show’s concept, upcoming projects, humour in India and the West, and more.The tour started in Kochi last week, and Das will perform in nine other cities over the next month.
What brings you to Chandigarh? You’ll also be travelling to other small places such as Surat, Vadodara, and Coimbatore, besides the usual metropolitan cities. Was it a conscious move?
Das: Yes, absolutely. I wanted to do something different from the usual straight-jacketed stand-up show and involve the audience. And as far as targeting smaller towns is concerned, this is the first time I am on an 11-city tour, hoping that people, unbelievably, will believe in me. The show received a great response in Kochi, so surely Chandigarh won’t let me down either. Besides, I know you people have a lot of money... so let’s say I want some of that (laughs)!
You last came here 11 years ago, for a play; how is this visit going to be different? What is the new concept you bring?
I visited the city last when I was 24 and had just started my career. It was for a play by the lovely Bela Sehgal. This time, it is a comedy show, the concept of which is way more interactive. I will share with the audience 10 varied stories from my life, all of which may not be true. The catch here is to guess which ones are. There will be a continuous-running true/false meter before the audience. Whoever ticks all the right options will get the ticket money back.
What anecdotes from Vir’s life can Chandigarh look forward to hearing?
Besides the first kiss to losing virginity to days at (The) Lawrence (School), Sanawar, I have some stories about Hot Millions in Sector 17 and how I got my appendix removed at 1.30 in the night at Santokh Nursing Home in Sector 38.
You have performed a lot across the world. How is the Indian audience different from audience in the West? Easier to please?
Tougher (to please), actually, considering that the Indian audience is a little more reserved. However, once they warm up after a joke or two, they laugh the loudest.
As a country, do we indeed don’t have a sense of humour, and take ourselves too seriously, in the light of the recent AIB Roast episode and the entire debate about censorship?
No, I don’t think so. It narrows down to the kind of humour; it can be vulgar or edgy but it cannot be unintelligent. Even if I sound vulgar or offensive, I don’t want people to go back home thinking I was stupid. As far as the roasts are concerned, when I am on stage, I make fun of myself and never of others. The only way to judge a joke is by its originality.
You’re a versatile performer; comedy, acting, and now, with the release of an album, even singing, what is closest to your heart?
Films and television get you the biggest audience. I always wanted to be an actor and comedy is the detour I took, which only helped me bag more roles in Bollywood projects. Adi Chopra offered me “Badmash Company” after he watched my stand-up comedy acts. The lyrics’ of my debut music album, “Bom in Live Bay”, have retarded humour that people will like. The combination of three talents makes me a well-rounded artiste, which I enjoy.
We hear that 2015 is a packed year for you, with a lot of films coming up. Tell us about it.
There is romantic comedy “Mastizaade” with Sunny Leone and Tushar Kapoor; “Khanna Patel”, the love story of a Punjabi boy and a Gujarati girl, in which I enjoyed working with Rishi Kapoor; “Santa Banta” opposite Neha Dhupia; and, finally, a film for which I had to put on 11 kilograms. It is based on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and I’m doing it with Soha Ali Khan. It will go to the Cannes Film Festival (in France).