October 24 2016
He’s one of the best known stand-ups in India and has regularly performed abroad, and after a slightly awkward start in Edinburgh earlier this year, he’s back in the UK in Soho, London and promising some new jaw-dropping funny stuff…
By Dimple Pau
VIR DAS IS CURRENTLY a very big deal in India.
Not only has he featured in Bollywood films such as “Go BadMaash Company”, “Delhi Belly”, and “Revolver Rani” but he is a much loved stand-up comedian receiving many a rave review.
The relationship between comedian Vir and British audiences, however, initally got off to a somewhat uncertain start.
It is described by Das as a ‘weird virgin on prom night experience’.
The good news is that we’ve all gotten past that and now it’s all love songs, flowers and a little bit of male nudity…
Vir took to the stage in August with “Vir Das, Unbelievable: The Dishonest Indian” at Edinburgh’s world famous Fringe festival and describes his turbulent relationship with us Brits- whom he’s now got to understand – making this year’s fringe leaving him (and us) wanting more. And so to “Vir Das Live in London“.
“It was amazing. Twenty days of cider and comedy, more cider than comedy,” he said of his Edinburgh experience.
“The first show was kind of ‘a weird virgin on prom night’ experience between me and the British crowd.
“I mean that it wasn’t enjoyable, but infinitely memorable.
“It took me a while to catch how polite the crowd was. British crowds tend to be a little bit quieter and when you come off a year of performing in India and America and that’s a bit of a culture shock.
“But we found our rhythm the next day and we are giving it a second go in October.”
Das opens his run tonight at The Soho Theatre (October 24-November 5) in London and said we can “expect to learn a little more about the real India, not the ‘head-bobble’ Simpsons version of it that you see on TV”.
“The Indian accent may be a perspective and not a punchline after a long time.
“There’s an incredibly aesthetic section of full frontal male nudity, and unabashed dishonesty. I’m looking forward to the crowds hearing about their lives from an Indian perspective, albeit an edgy one.”
Having performed all over the world, as expected Vir has identified some subtle differences in how audiences react to his material, which mainly centres around volume.
“Funny is funny. That’s all it boils down to. All crowds are the same, some just pay less.
“Indians are reserved and louder later, Americans are loud throughout and British people are all about the subtleties.”
As stand-up comedy can be one of the most ruthless and heart-breaking industries to survive, let alone prosper in, what was it that made him want to enter it?
“More than the money, the freedom to say all the crazy s*** in my head, the attention, the laughter and the applause…it was the girls.
“I waited tables in a restaurant where comedians got on stage and at the end of their set, pretty girls spoke to them.
“This is something I hadn’t really experienced, this was something I wanted to experience, and this is something I have yet to experience…
My whole career has been an incredible miscalculation of hypothetical swag.”
But there was one inspirational, bittersweet moment that really pushed him to keep on it: “An open mic night in Chicago changed my life.
“The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I’m not good enough to do it. Failure has been the greatest teacher I’ve ever had. Rock bottom has always been my friend.”
Over email, we asked Vir: “What the main obstacle was in getting started?”
He said: “Living in a country where the club culture didn’t really exist. We had to build this scene form the ground up over the last five years.”
And now: “It’s incredibly exciting. What you’re witnessing is the first reaction to everything – our first take on sketch, improv, stand up, character work and comedy rock.
“We are a vibrant young country that is growing and stumbling and that comes with a gigantic pace of comedic influence. It’s moving as fast as America did in the 1980s and as Britain did in the 1960s.”
See what the height of India’s comedy scene looks like and catch “Vir Das: Live in London” at The Soho Theatre from today (October 24) until Sat November 5 7.30pm at Soho Downstairs, Soho Theatre Company Ltd, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE.
For more info/ticket booking:http://sohotheatre.com/whats-on/vir-das-live-in-london
All pictures (except top): Riccardo Salvi for www.asianculturevulture.com
* Das’s first serious film role was in “31st October”, which premiered at the London Indian Film Festival in 2015; it’s just been released in India after a wrangle with the film authorities in India.
Set on the evening of October 31, 1984, it vividly recaptures the horrors visited on Sikhs in the capital, Delhi, following the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that day. Das appears in the lead role alongside on-screen wife, Soha Ali Khan, who is a well-known actor in the independent film scene in India and the daughter of yesteryear Bollywood screen siren, Sharmila Tagore and Indian cricketing legend, the late Tiger Pataudi.
For review of 31st October see:
For an interview with “31st October” producer-writer Harry Sachdeva, see this video interview…