Ever wondered why Indian stand-up comedians play safe and don’t take a jibe at political issues? The new Netflix stand-up special Vir Das: Landing has a lesson for all.
The 66-minute act is the fifth collaboration between Vir Das and the streaming platform. His previous ones are Abroad Understanding (2017), Losing It (2018), For India (2020), and Outside In (2020).
Among his other performances and stand-up specials, Das managed to draw the maximum eyeballs for his Kennedy Center monologue, ‘Two Indias’. From massive trolling, Twitter trends, and opinion articles to police complaints — seven, to be precise — Das was on the receiving end of it all. Some loved him for calling a spade a spade, while some called him out for his privileged point of view.
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Effective comic tool
His latest stand-up special is a follow-up to the Two Indias monologue. He dives deep into his childhood in India, the perils of outrage, and finding his feet in the world. The Netflix special is Das’ tete-a-tete with the audience about the emotional, legal, and professional repercussions he endured. He also takes a jibe at the incessant trolling he and his family were subjected to and how prevalent it is in India.
“I am nobody’s victim, nobody’s hero. Indians are very passé about death threats anyway,” he says at one point, underlining the umpteen number of death threats he and his loved ones receive, especially after his monologue did not sit well with many.
As the name suggests, Vir Das: Landing takes the audience on a metaphorical journey from the United States to Mumbai, drawing upon the cultural differences between the two countries.
It is a comedy device that he has used at various times during his previous stand-up specials. Here too, he uses this comic tool effectively.
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On India’s ‘cancel culture’
The jokes are clever and political, and oftentimes evoke thoughts rather than laughter. “Why doesn’t Indian comedy push the envelope?” he exclaims at one point, and then answers, “Because we looked inside the envelope, you b***h. There are court dates in it.” Considering the stature he enjoys at the time, not many comedians in India can speak the truth to power.
Over the years, Das has built a loyal fan base. The number of Netflix stand-up specials he has featured in the last three years is a testament to his global fanbase and relatability. Vir Das: Landing was filmed in a large theatre in New York, which is enough for one to assess Das’ fascinating journey.
If you are looking to LOL (laugh out loud) and content that makes you ROFL (rolling on the floor, laughing), this stand-up special is perhaps not for you. But if you like his razor-sharp observations within the intersection of American and Indian culture, you will enjoy this.
“I never thought I’d see you again… If I’ve ever created a world where I don’t get to touch a microphone, I have zero interest in that world,” he says, letting us wander into how he felt after what he assumed was the end of his career.
It is heartwarming to see him perform and put his heart out. Vir Das: Landing is not the crowning jewel of his comedy career, but it speaks out, unabashedly and unapologetically, against India’s “cancel culture” and its behind-the-scenes. And for that, as always, this stand-up special deserves a watch.
(Edited by Tarannum Khan)