Tale of two Indias
With comedian Vir Das’ recent monologue having created an uproar, we speak to city-based comedians who tell us why the business of comedy is a tightrope walk
BENGALURU: I am from the India that is still scared of what the older generation thinks about us’; ‘I come from an India where we trust our neighbours with our house keys but also envy them for owning a bigger TV’; ‘I come from an India that is ready to encourage debate, accept criticism and make a sincere honest attempt to grow and improve....’ this is how Bengaluru-based stand-up comedians responded to the current buzzword on social media ‘I come from an India’.
The monologue of Vir Das’ Two Indias at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, recently, has got netizens debating over what kind of India each of them comes from. The stand-up comedian’s monologue has also sparked an uproar with a certain section of social media having taken offense to Das’ points on crime against women, India-Pakistan cricket match sentiments and Bollywood goings-on. While some believe it was a ‘well-crafted’ speech, others say ‘the choice of words needed to be careful’. Responding to the criticism of standup comedians always crossing the line, fellow artistes believe that putting an end to creativity can ‘push comedy into coma’.
City-based standup comic Kritarth Srinivasan says, “If you are trying to make a statement, Vir Das’ way of putting it was smart. The writing is well-thought out. It is not right to say he is only being pessimistic about India. Agreeing and disagreeing with Vir Das in itself reflects two types of India.”
For Kannada standup comedian Sonu Venugopal, the video is pretty much non-controversial. “Vir Das is talking about India through his lens. There is nothing offensive about his comments on how crimes against women are rising... because it is the truth,” she says, adding that what could possibly be offensive is when an artiste uses racial slurs and body shames. “Slapping criminal charges and cancelling comedy shows sets a bad precedent. While Vir Das can fight and resist the backlash against him, artistes with very little resources, like myself, find it hard to fight them,” adds Venugopal.
Sunetra Pandit, a standup artiste from Lolbagh, a comedy club, believes that the choice of words when referring to the crimes against women should have been responsible. “Crime against women is committed in all countries. But Vir Das chose to speak only on behalf of India. His choice of words [I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gangrape them at night] should have been responsible and careful, especially when he was addressing a huge gathering at an international platform,” says Pandit.
We must learn to laugh at ourselves, feels Dr Anil Abraham, standup comedian and dermatologist. “I come from an India that is ready to accept criticism and encourage debate. Comedy will have to die a natural death if there are lines drawn and limits set for laughter. We must learn to laugh at ourselves, from our foibles and set about correcting what we need to. The argument that this is an international platform does not hold good. It’s a virtual world and every platform is an international one,” he says.