Entertainment

Vir Das on his new Netflix special, ‘For India’: Time to come home

A scene from Vir Das: For India on Netflix

A scene from Vir Das: For India on Netflix  

The funnyman talks about his social media personality, why his new show is political, and the universal 'Indian identity'

Vir Das is a multi-hyphenate in the true sense of the word. In the last year or so, the 40-year-old has featured in an American network drama (Whiskey Cavalier); created and shot a desi travel comedy show; written, produced and acted in a web series about a comedian serial killer; toured the world; and shot a special. After Abroad Understanding and Losing It, Vir Das: For India is his third for Netflix. Calling it a “love letter” to India, he says, “The first one was a crossover special so it was shot in partly in Delhi and in New York. The second one was shot in San Francisco in a big comedy venue as if to say ‘I think I might have crossed over’. With this one, I just felt like it was time to come home.”

While the special drops on January 26, this promises to be a big weekend for the Go Goa Gone actor for more than one reason. He and Preity Zinta will feature in the January 25 episode of the hit Amercian comedy, Fresh off the Boat. There has also been talk about a possible spin-off, tentatively titled Magic Motor Inn, with the two Indian actors in the lead. “I am very excited. I got to meet the fantastic cast and work with Preity Zinta. I am a gigantic fan. There are conversations about the spin-off, but it’s still early,” he says. For now, though, Das is going to be preparing for a hush-hush film project that he’ll start shooting for in April. Excerpts from a telephonic interview:

Through the special you talk about Indian identity through food, drinks, customs, and personalities…

The idea was to zero in on the universal Indian identity. I tried in the first month of writing, but then I figured out that I am never going to get it right. There are literally 1.3 billion different versions of India. So, I might have a disclosure at the beginning and say “This is my India, and I get that it’s probably going to be drastically different from your India, but I am going to talk about 55 things, and hopefully, you’ll identify with 40 of them”. Then, I had to figure out how to talk about both big and small things — from the political situation to Chyawanprash and Jallianwala Bagh to Amar Akbar Anthony.

Would it be fair to say that this is your most political special yet?

Most comedians in the US are moving away from the Trump joke. It is either not funny any more, or it’s just so done. It’s easy to write a joke that you know 50% of the audience will relate to — less by virtue of the joke and more because of what their political beliefs are. One of the best things I saw was a John Mulaney bit where he compared Trump to “a horse in a hospital”. It was genius. While it was still political, it made people laugh, regardless of their political leanings. That’s when I wondered if I can go from Jungle Book to Narendra Modi. So, in that sense, yes, this special is political. Also, we can’t talk about our country without talking about what’s happening.

Vir Das

Vir Das   | Photo Credit: SUJIT JAISWAL

Your career over the last few years looks like this blur of specials and world tours. What have been the standouts?

I am not really a retrospective kind of guy. I am always thinking about what I am going to do next. I am able to produce content for other people and that’s exciting to me. I can be a creative director. We are developing a show that’s written and directed by women, and I am hoping to produce it this year.

How would you describe your social media personality?

I’m trying to be better and not feed the trolls. I am also very sentimental. There is no middle ground. So, it’s either posts with lots of hearts or it’s just me being salty.

Who do you follow?

I don’t follow too many people. On Twitter, I’ve been following the same news portals, famous comedians and science and technology websites that I started off with in the beginning. On Instagram, I only follow bulldog accounts and my wife. On Facebook, I have a private account with about 25-30 friends.

Where do you engage with fans?

After the first Netflix special, suddenly 18 to 25 became the largest demographic on my social media followers. And, all the kids on Instagram. I like engaging with them there. Younger fans are always the most enthusiastic ones.

What are you watching?

I am a documentary guy. Between all the platforms, they have resurrected the documentary industry. I just watched (Killer Inside:) The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. I also saw a really good one called Blue Bird, about a music café in Memphis, Tennessee, and what it meant to country music. Peaky Blinders is my guilty pleasure. And I’ll watch Jamtara this weekend.

Watch Vir Das: For India on Netflix, starting January 26.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 11:17:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/vir-das-on-his-new-netflix-special-for-india-time-to-come-home/article30642026.ece

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