Indians toughest crowd for the first 2 minutes-Vir Das
Reader Shraddha Jhaveri, who is a regular at Vir Das’s shows, gets him to tell her a joke or two off stage
Ankit Ajmera (MUMBAI MIRROR; June 17, 2012)
On one occasion after watching History of India – VIRitten, Sharaddha Jhaveri wanted to barge into Vir’s room backstage. “My friends told me you are not embarrassing us like that,” she says. “I had the ticket with me and I badly wanted to get your autograph on it,” she tells Vir. “I would have been more embarrassed than you,” Vir replies (laughing).
Mirror got Shraddha, a graduate from Sophia Polytechnic who celebrates her birthday today, to meet her favourite celebrity, Vir Das, somewhere at Madh Island in the middle of a film shoot. She has watched almost all of his shows and totally adores his role in Delhi Belly and Badmaash Company.
After watching him say his lines on the sets of Amit Sahni Ki List, she can’t wait to ask him why he chose comedy as a profession.
Vir says he didn’t actually opt for it. “I was studying theatre at the Knox College, Illinois,” he says. “After four years of serious and intensive acting and training (involving many Shakespearean plays), I kind of said – okay, I don’t like this. I wanted to do something that is a little more organic and improvised. A few blocks down they used to have amateur stand-up acts. I though of giving it a shot and wrote a show when I was 22. I had performed in front of my friends and they seemed to like it. I felt like the king of the world. But when I went to perform in front of a crowd, I got 90 per cent cusses and was booed off stage in 20 seconds. I couldn’t figure out why.”
He tells her that he is the kind of guy who would certainly want to achieve something if he is told he can’t. “It was after 14 weeks that I started telling jokes right on the spot. Then, finally, it started to go well. I came back to India and somebody offered me a TV show,” he says.
Shraddha prefers to see him perform on the stage rather than on screen. But he thinks for a moment and says, “Movies require a lot of patience. I like instant results. If I have done something that’s not funny at all, the audience will let me know in two seconds. With the movie, I will have to wait nine months to know if I was that bad.”
She is surprised to learn that Vir did not have any lines in the second half of Delhi Belly. “I don’t think anyone realised that,” she says. “The character of Aroop was that of a pot head. He was a shaant, Bengali intellectual. But I wanted to make him a bubble of anger who could burst any second because things kept happening to him,” he says. “That was when Abhinay (Deo) and I sat down to discuss it. We would do one take his way. Then I would ask him for another in which I tried a funnier angle. Though it did not work for all takes, some turned out to be pretty good. I thank Abhinay for bearing with me.”
As Vir has lived in the US, Shraddha is curious about which audience he prefers. “I certainly prefer Indians,” he says. “They are the toughest crowd for the first two minutes and the best for the remaining 98.” Citing the example of History of India…, he points out that it took him a year to write the show, which included everything — Mohenjodaro, Ramayan, Kalmadi and Mamata Banerjee — but was not well received by certain critics. “People said it was unpatriotic. But you don’t sit down and spend a year studying the history of your country unless you love it tremendously.”
Shraddha quizzes him his joke on Buland Darwaza. “I thought what Akbar must have been thinking when he called his architect in and told him to build a giant gate that doesn’t open to anywhere. I imagined how Birbal must have been sitting in one corner during the meeting. Normally you would not think of the Buland Darwaza as funny. On twitter when fans tweet and tell me that they are at the Buland Darwaza and can’t stop laughing, I feel good.”
Shraddha flips out the ticket she has been saving since the day she watched History of India… and asks Vir to sign it. He writes — ‘Thank you for making a journey to meet me off Google maps. Wish you a very happy birthday’.
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