New Delhi: Actor and comedian Vir Das was recently inÂ NewÂ Delhi for a stand-up show as part of his â€˜Unbelievable Tourâ€™.
Das was apparently on stage at Siri Fort Auditorium doing what he doesÂ bestÂ â€“ making people laugh.
But, what is interesting is this time the funny man attempted to do an act on former President ofÂ India, APJ Abdul Kalam. But the actor was later stopped from performing.
In a letter onÂ Facebook,Â Vir Das wrote about the entire incident that happened at Sri Fort auditorium.
â€œDearÂ UnderÂ the influence of influence,
Iâ€™m a fool. On myÂ bestÂ and worst day thatâ€™s the largest compliment I can receive. If you go home thinking â€œWhat an idiotâ€ iâ€™ve done my job. Being an idiot however, doesnâ€™t make me a criminal.
MyÂ newÂ show UnbelievabLISH is a show about truth & outrageous fiction. In one bit, I tell a story about how I performed for the man I consider to be Indiaâ€™s coolest president ever Dr. Abdul Kalam. My tribute, goes into an outrageous sketch about how Kalam hosts MTV cribs, has swag & defends himself against a fictitious lesbian assault. Itâ€™s stupid, immature, I take full ownership of it and I think it is funny. Musicians write songs, artists paint, I parody.â€
However, during the interval, the comedian got a visit from a man who demanded that he stop talking about the former President.
â€œWe are now at interval in Sirifort, and an intellectual gentlemen has walked into my green room and said â€œExcuse meâ€¦.you CANNOT talk about Kalamâ€. Iâ€™ve done this for long enough to know that any audience feedback isÂ goodÂ feedback and must always be humbly accepted. However, I haveÂ underÂ 2 minutes to get back on stage and inform him that I cannot have this discussion at this time as politely as I can.
Second half of my show begins and somewhere 20 mins into it, policemen have begun showing up to Sirifort. I am on stage and I can see Policemen backstage, in the control room, and with my crew. My crew Is being questioned by Police as the show is going on, they areÂ allÂ taken away from their event duties. Trying to explain to them that itâ€™s a comedy show, which the police have now begun recording for investigation purposes on phones. To their credit, they are just doing their jobâ€¦investigating a complaint filed. And more than an investigation â€œHumare pass kissi KaÂ phoneÂ aaya thaâ€ seems to be the consensus. Clearly someone with influence was called who, then made this call.â€
Vir Das goes on to further describe the events in the green room, the attitude of the police man and the disappearance of the man who supposedly took offence to the whole act.
â€œThis is in addition to the multiple policemen that have showed up through the day in Delhi and during the show in Chandigarh saying â€œHumare sahib to ticket chahiye nahin toh show nahin hone dengeâ€â€¦but the bribery and free pass system is another much longer open letter for another time.
The venue is panicking because cops are now saying we are overtime (Not my fault, the audience just laughed a little more than I expected). Sensing that we are about to get shut down, I skip the big closing bit, wrap up the show as quickly as I can, spend no time atÂ allÂ thanking my audience, which I think is the most important part of the show and get off stage.
I am now in my green room with my crew who is asking me to just evacuate the venue which I refuse to do. My logic: Iâ€™ve done nothing wrong, let me talk to the Police, it will be fine. Eventually the cops leave saying that the complaint will have to be addressed, they will be reviewing my comedy footage, and Iâ€™m preparing myself for that process. This letter isnâ€™t about that.
Hereâ€™s the kicker: The Gentleman who filed the complaint is nowhere to be found. He just left, called someone with influence, filed a Police complaint over theÂ phone, and went home leaving us toÂ dealÂ with this messy situation. It was that easy.â€
The actor, who has appeared in a few Bolylwood films like â€˜Go Goa Goneâ€™ and â€˜Delhi Bellyâ€™, then highlights the points he has an issue with.
â€œThis is my problem.
The fact that you can use influence to shut down or intimidate any artist or art form that you may not personally agree with is scary. But the fact that the Police will back you up without any consequences is a slippery slope and a tool thatâ€™s prime for misuse.
It is immature to quote voltaire in this situation or say â€œIf you donâ€™t like it, donâ€™t attend the show. If you donâ€™t like it, please attend the show, and tell me why you donâ€™t like it, and as an artist I will absorb that and do what I can with it, always respectfully. But it is strange that instead of giving us feedback, commenting on our work, critiquing it, rejecting it (allÂ of which are welcome)â€¦.itâ€™s just so much easier to just makeÂ life difficult for us with aÂ phoneÂ call.â€
That to me represents a larger picture of where we are today, and which this govt has created, where comedians, humorists, cartoonists, filmmakers, musicians arenâ€™t just scared of leaders anymoreâ€¦we are also scared of the random dude with a cellphone who knows someone who knows someone who is related to someone who is the third cousin of someone with power.
If I may, Hereâ€™s what I want them to understand:
1. Comedy is a performance and not just a person.
2. This one is important: Please tell me what you thought of what i said, you cannot tell me what I CANNOT say. â€œYou CANNOT talk about Kalamâ€ is an unacceptable sentence to me. Yes I can, he was my president too, Iâ€™m a citizen and I have rightsâ€¦one of them includes the freedom to discuss my leaders.
3. When you come to see a comedy show, thatâ€™s someone elseâ€™s vision of theÂ world, not aÂ serviceÂ to yours. This is comedy not Karaoke.
4. This isnâ€™t about censorship. I donâ€™t apologise for the Subjects in my material because I consider myself an intelligent, moral and patriotic person. I will not change my material and I shouldnâ€™t have to based on what Govt is in power or who is attending the show.
5. Understand this: If weâ€™ve offended youâ€¦thatâ€™sÂ allÂ weâ€™ve done. Weâ€™ve offended you. thatâ€™s it. Accept it and move on. Much like we accept every single political troll who tells us to go to Pakistan or threatenâ€™s ourÂ lifeÂ and abuses us on twitter/facebook/letters/emails. If you didnâ€™t like it, Thats not a crime, thatâ€™s just a waste of your ticket money which most of us would be more than happy to refund.
Hereâ€™s something that I need you to do:
The next time you donâ€™t like a show, leave, or ask for your money back.
The next time youÂ callÂ the cops, make sure a crime has been committed.
The next time you see 1989 people laughingÂ allÂ around you, try and join them.
The next time an artist is in your city, if you really truly want to see him/her, put your cellÂ phoneÂ down andÂ buyÂ a ticket.
The next time you file a Police Complaint that shuts down a show and scares the shit out of peopleâ€¦have the courage to stick around.
The next time iâ€™m in town, if youâ€™re a powerful, influential personâ€¦.please just donâ€™t come.
This letter isnâ€™t for publicity. Itâ€™s because iâ€™ve got a lot more shows to do and iâ€™d like to get back to work.
Later, on Monday morning, Vir Das thanked people for their support on his open letter.Â
He wrote: â€œGuys,
Thanks forÂ allÂ the support and wonderful messages youâ€™ve sent my way since yesterday. Incredibly kind and unexpected.
I wrote the letter purely to set the context for the rest of the tour and who comes for the show. Thatâ€™s the focus here.
Iâ€™ve got 14 cities to go, Iâ€™m aware of what my ticketsÂ cost, how many other options the audience have, what they gave up over the weekend or coming weekends to come see this show. And I always always always want to make sure they feel like this was therightÂ choice.
Iâ€™m going back to work now smile emoticon See you on the road.