Stand-up comic Vir Das, facing a huge backlash over his viral “Two Indias” monologue at the Kennedy Centre in Washington recently, says it is his job to put out satire and he will continue to write “love letters to my country” as long as he is able to do comedy.
In his first interview after the massive controversy over the video he posted on YouTube last week, Vir Das, who has been nominated for an international Emmy for his Netflix show “Vir Das: For India”, also stresses that he believes any Indian who has a sense of humour knows it was satire.
Would he have done anything different? The 42-year-old stand-up comic is very clear about what he wanted to convey through his piece.
“I think laughter is a celebration and when laughter and applause fill up a room… that’s a moment of pride. I think that any Indian who has a sense of humour, or understands satire, or watches my entire video, knows that that’s what happened in that room,” he told NDTV in an exclusive interview in New York.
“As an artiste you receive all kinds of feedback. But millions of people … they have given me love for my show.”
In the six-minute clip from the Kennedy Centre performance that has been widely shared and has sharply divided social media, Vir Das describes two contrasting faces of the country and refers to many controversial topics – from the Delhi gang-rape to the farmer protests to pollution – in broad strokes.
“I come from an India that has the largest working population under 30 on the planet but still listens to 75-year-old leaders with 150-year-old ideas,” he says in the monologue to wild applause.
While many on Twitter praised his words and shared the video or parts of it, Vir Das was also trolled viciously for extracts like this – “I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them during the night.” A BJP leader has filed a police complaint accusing him of vilifying India on foreign soil.
Was he expecting this sort of response when he wrote it?
“A comedian puts out satire and if it’s the good of the country and the bad of the country ending in the good of the country… I think that’s something that you should want to come together in – I can’t expect what happens when I put out a piece of content… It’s jokes. It’s not in my hands,” he said.
On the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister declaring he would not be allowed to perform in the state, Vir Das replied: “I will have to cross those bridges when we come to those – humbly.”
The comic indicated that he would not let the episode change anything about the jokes he writes.
“I have made my country laugh for 10 years now. I have devoted my life to writing about my country. We are here at the Emmys because I wrote a love letter to my country. As long as I am able to do my comedy I want to keep writing love letters to my country.”
On the road ahead, he said: “I just don’t know. Write jokes and hope to hell that people watch all of them, the full thing in its actual context.”