Over the past few years, comedy has become a way to protest against wrongs, speak one’s mind about issues that plague us, and also find respite amidst the fast-paced lifestyle. It has become something intangible when it comes to solving issues and raising a voice. Over the years, comedy lost its safety net of delivering hard-hitting facts under the guise of a joke. When the audience started to protest offensive speech and find faults in a comedian’s piece, that comedian’s career and life were as good as done. In India and abroad, there have been instances when a particular comedian faced a lot of backlashes over something they said, and a large part of the audience found it hurt their sentiments. The intersection of comedy and politics brought with it a lot of dangers for comedians and also provided a topic for discourse over one’s freedom of speech. Vir Das is one of the most celebrated comedians out there. Over the span of his career as a comedian, he has made quite a few revealing statements that have often not sit well with a certain section of society. In 2021, Vir Das made the infamous comment, “I come from two Indias,” and further went on to give references for the same. This comment sparked a riot both online and in real life. The nation was divided over his monologue, and Vir Das faced severe backlash from the Indians, both at home and abroad. A year later, the comedian is back, and he has a lot to say about his work and his struggles during the past year.
Vir Das released his new stand-up special, “Landing,” on Netflix. The show opens with the song “I Am in Mumbai, Waiting for a Miracle” by Raghu Dixit. The song sets the tone for Vir Das’ upcoming performance for the next hour as he jumps between his time in India and in America. The title of the song is also the song’s chorus line, and it shows Vir Das’ hope for a miracle after the November 2021 flare-up. In this special, he made jokes about his formative years in India. He jumped to various points in his life to deliver a set on his journey so far. While doing so, he also commented on how his piece from last year brought him trouble, uncertainty, and fear for his and his family’s lives. He plucked from the negative comments and presented his side of the story. At the beginning of his special, he spreads a handful of beach sand over a certain section of the stage but does not give any explanation. The stage, as we can see, is divided into two sections: one covered in white sand and one with a black panel. Vir Das moves back and forth between the sectioned panels.
Vir Das touches upon topics of conversation that have changed over the years between generations. He also talks about how an Indian upbringing changes certain conceptions as well. He jokes about how the American and Indian reactions to death threats are tangentially different. He borders on slightly controversial topics like talking about the Trump family and even cracks a few uncomfortable jokes about sex, slavery, and being an Indian abroad.
It is not until the very end that the audience finds out why he has poured the sand on the stage and why there are two sectioned panels. He boldly announces that after the 2021 incident, he has begun carrying a handful of sand from Juhu Beach in Mumbai. When performing outside India, he spreads that sand over the stage and speaks about his country so that no one can tell him again that he spoke ill of his country on foreign soil. This gesture of Das’ is a message to the naysayers and everyone in general that he would continue to speak up about the things that bother him about his country and that he, as a comedian, would not stop doing what he does because of threats. Vir Das’ “Landing” was his much-awaited comeback, and he landed straight into the hearts of his fans and supporters once again. He ends his piece by explaining the difference between a nationalist and a patriot and stating his point clearly so as to point out which category he belongs to.
Das’ “Landing” elicits a few laughs throughout the hour and six minutes of its course. There are ebbs and flows in the piece as he touches upon certain sensitive topics and expresses his opinion on the same. Das’ habit of poking where it hurts the most is not lost, despite the backlash he faced. His style of comedy is provocative to some and exciting to others. It depends on which side the consumer wants to be on. Vir Das does make a few fair points that land on the mark. He also proclaims that he mourned his career after the 2021 incident and that he no longer has a stable career to fall back on. This experience has been true for certain comedians in India—a bold statement made here, and a police complaint made there. It takes an immense amount of courage to stand up once again after having been called names in one’s country and abroad. Vir Das plucked the courage from the love and support he received from his family and supporters and came back to a smooth landing.
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