Vir Das is quick to admit that he has always seen himself as the ‘outsider’. He is just as capable of self-deprecation — “I’m five foot eight-and-a-half and I don’t know anybody,” he told Hindustan Times — as he is to making self-important statements such as this: “I’m a comedian who does Bollywood and a Bollywood guy who does comedy. I’m an Indian for the Western audiences and Western for the Indian audiences.”
He’s always had an ‘outsider’s perspective,’ he said. No wonder the comedian Sorabh Pant at a recent event described Das as ‘the Priyanka Chopra of comedy.’
Pant used to write jokes for Das back in the day, when standup comedy in India was still finding its footing. As someone who has long been considered somewhat of a pioneer, Das said he has learned that “the more powerful they are, the cooler they are with the joke.” In his latest special, Vir Das: For India, his third for the streaming giant Netflix, the comedian punches up at powerful corporations and personalities, without ever losing the ‘moral compass’ that he prides himself on having.
“I’ve performed for the biggest people in India and made fun of them to their face – from Bollywood to companies and corporations,” he said. “I’m a very small fish in their pond.” Das said that he doesn’t self-censor ‘at all’ and that to his mind, “The guy who gets upset is never the politician or the businessman, it’s the guy who loves the politician or the businessman.”
He does, however, express his irritation towards the ‘uncle community’ that’s “running the country and running the world.”
“All I know is that I’ve never been screamed at by anybody but an uncle, and I’ve never gotten into trouble with anybody but an uncle,” Das said. The “aunties and young people,” however, have always been great to him. “We have to get aunties’ voices out there and we have to get young boys’ and young girls’ voices out there.”
But this is the first time Das has done a special ‘about India’ and he said he realises that “you’re not going to get away with doing a show about India and not talk about these things.” By ‘these things’ the comedian is perhaps referring to the transitional phase that Indian is currently experiencing. Das has been very vocal in recent months about issues as wide-ranging as the student-led protests across the country against the controversial CAA-NRC acts, and a rise in the misreporting of facts by mainstream media.
But he has a hack. “The best way to address it in a way that brings everybody together,” he said, “so don’t make it too one-sided or at the very least don’t cushion the fact that this is your opinion.”