One of the country’s most popular stand-up comedians, Vir Das’ big break in films, after a few bit roles, came in the form of “Delhi Belly”. He plays ‘Luv’ in the recently released zombie flick, “Go Goa Gone”. In a candid telephonic interaction, the theatre artiste, stand-up comedian, Harvard alumnus and film actor talks about his future, past and present. Excerpts:
“Go Goa Gone” is a rather unconventional film. What was your first reaction when the movie was pitched to you?
It is a very queer incident actually. “Delhi Belly” had just released and I was getting offers for more films. And then Raj called me for a meeting of five minutes, and when we met we just stared at each other for some time, did some small talk, and then we left. Ten days later the script arrived; I think he just wanted to see for once how I looked like in real life. In “Delhi Belly” I was bald, in other movies I always carried a different look. When I read the script, I pounced on the opportunity. By that time I had got around seven offers; I postponed all of them so I could do this movie.
How has the transition been from being a stand-up comedian to a movie star?
It is tough. I have to get fit and ready for a role in a very short time. My working hours have changed. Earlier I used to sleep late and wake up late. Now I have to be up early and get ready for the morning shoots. Also, stand-up comedy is a lot about amplifying emotions and situations; movie acting has a lot to do with mellowing things down and making them subtle. The transition was almost terrifying because of the magnitude of change.
While growing up, who were the comedians that inspired you?
I really admired the likes of Bill Cosby (he was a man who could make any thing seem hilarious), George Carlin (he would say things on stage that nobody could imagine), Ed Byrne for his very academic form of humour, and the classic Eddie Murphy.
Who is the real Vir Das? Is he the stand-up comedian in real life or there are more shades to him?
I am honestly very intimidated when I meet new people and they expect me to be the onscreen Vir. On stage I say a lot of things I might never say in real life, I am never the life of the party. People are quite surprised to see that I am more of a quiet artiste off stage.
How has your formal education been helpful in shaping your career?
Well, class I to XII wasn’t much help; I was always a mediocre student. But when I pursued higher education and studied economics with theatre or psychology with science fiction, I got a whole new world view. It is ironic because I came into this field in order to evade studies but on the contrary I ended up reading six papers a day, and writing scripts for eight hour shows and cutting them down to two hours with the scripts running into hundreds of pages.