Vir Das is set to perform in Hyderabad today. Between doing comedy, acting, producing and escaping apparent assassination attempts, he spoke to Zeenab Aneez about the show and more
It is easy to mistake Vir Das for a curiously paranoid man. Whether in conversation or on stage performing, he makes sure to add the disclaimer that his latest show, ‘History of India – VIRitten’, may well have gotten him assassinated. But it is, of course not paranoia that drove him to write the 100-minute piece, which he is performing in the city this evening, but an interest in history and a penchant for comedy.
“It took me a year to write it,” says Vir, “It involved reading a lot of books from the likes of Khushwant Singh to eleventh grade text books so I had access to different kinds of material, absorbing it all and making note of small observations and finally writing the joke. It got to a point where I had 200 pages of notes which I had to bring to the 50-60 pages I am using on stage. There is so much material that you can do the show thrice over and still have more.”
Moreover, Vir adds a few improvisations to the script depending on where he is performing. “Normal stand up is very improvisational but here I am limited by a historical chronology. Having said that, every set is a mixture of big jokes, mini jokes and embellishments. The last two change depending on where you are. So I do some research on the city before performing because I have to begin with a certain amount of local history as well,” explains Vir. What digs is he going to take at Hyderabad? “You’ll have to watch the show to find out!”
Picking out the moments that allow for most laughs from a country with such a long and intricate history as ours can be task. Starting from the ancient scriptures and mythology, Vir will take the audience on a comic trip back in time, to when the Marathas ruled or when Vasco Da Gama docked his boat on Indian shores, or through the deeds and misdeeds of the East India Company, the colonial period and the subsequent struggle for independence, only to come a full circle to modern day India.
“I try not to spend too much time on any one thing because there is so much ground to cover,” says Vir when asked if there was any particular event in the past he thought was particularly worthy of a good laugh. The idea, it seems, is to poke fun of everything!
“The idea is to make fun of Indian history but the show has a very positive spin to it, especially when we come to the more modern years,” says the comedian and actor who have taken the show across the globe. “We seldom have people taking offence at the material because it comes from a very patriotic place. It sells for what it is. I think a lot of people will leave the show wishing that history lessons had been this much fun. We’ve had politicians and media personnel watch it and enjoy it which is strange because everyone thought I will get assassinated after this show went public.”
Vir who gained popularity with his direct, cheeky humour is one of the must successful comedians in the country right now and he thinks the scene is in a “good place right now.”
“We are finally a legitimate weekend entertainment alternative to a live concert, movie or theatre and that you will consider spending Rs.500-1000 to watch a stand-up performance is great,” he points out. Vir made his foray into acting a few years ago and is turning producer soon. “Nikhil Advani and I have tied up for a film and I have 5 or 6 more in the pipeline. “ It is a very cool time in the industry where there is space for a headlining, comedic leading man to do films like Adam Sandler, Will Ferrel and Ben Stiller have done in the West. Bollywood is wide open for a career like that to flourish,”he concludes.