In the world of Vir Das – I usually call it ‘sane’, the Indian government would mostly be about yawning politicians, the new stubble look on the yuva netas and the majority disinterested figures in white trying to pass one bill. I’m in Vir’s office at Bandra and the actor works very hard not to appear disinterested like our politicians. He’s rather soft spoken and pleasant. He considers his answers. He deadpans his responses. Some of that is playing the role of a happy stand-up comic enjoying his unlikely rise to movie-star success. Or some of it might be the delayed after-effects of the considerable amount of drugs he claims to have used over the course of his career. Ok, the last sentence was stretching it a bit too much I know. Just kidding! Besides his stand up acts, the actor has signed six movies out of which one of them – Saxxx Ki Dukaan.com, he claims (not kidding), is the weirdest and the craziest thing he’s ever done after Delhi Belly. I found out more from the mad-hatter.
So, are you a mad-hatter?
(Laughs) Yes I am. I love hats. It’s so much easy yaar. I don’t have to put any product in my hair and just put on the cap. I love it.
And do you shop online?
I do shop online, not for toys, but for my hats (laughs). There’s a website called Hats.com and they send hats anywhere in the world.
Back to Bollywood – How crazier do you intend to go with your new movie Saxxx Ki Dukaan?
How I’m looking at it is that I’ve gone crazier already. I have six releases next year and have signed four new films. That’s a total of ten movies now in hand and will release in the next two years. I’m signing films for different reasons – for range or for commercial success and that one movie that I want to do for myself. Saxxx Ki Dukaan.com has me in a double role and this is one movie I have done for myself. If we try and be a part of a cult film, it’ll never happen. Cults don’t happen like that. You make a film and it winds up being cult or path breaking. I don’t think audience will be apprehensive about sex because I am confident in the treatment of the film but it is largely an underdog story of a guy who discovers confidence in himself. If you pepper the film with just sex toys, it wouldn’t work.
But what was that pivotal point when you jumped and said ‘yes’ to Saxxx Ki Dukaan.com?
Sid Jain from iRock, who is the producer of the movie, met me for the pitch. But honestly, I like the title. I like the idea of the poster saying Vir Das in Saxxx Ki Dukaan.com. But the best was to see the faces of my parents after they read such a news in the newspapers. People expect me to do quirky and mad stuff and this is beyond that. I had the first narration, the second and in the third one I gave a nod to Sid and his director Paran Bawa. To me, I really wanted my double role (Superlingam) to come out really well. The byline goes – Toys Boys and Superlingam.
And the director is a Sikh. The film goes madder now.
(Laughs) Yes. He came on board after the two narrations. For me, the trick is to find directors who can improvise. He is one such guy. He let me play and we had a good third narration and I got convinced that Paran is the right man to direct such a movie.
Tell me more about the range that we’ll be seeing you in soon.
There’s a film called Sooper Se Ooper. It’s mainstream commercial romance but my take on it. The film is set in Rajasthan and I fall in love with a Rajasthani girl. You’ll get to see the heroine running, me spreading my arms and lots of chiffon sarees too. The next I’m doing is Santa Banta. It’s Boman and Me. It’s a Viacom movie. It’s got a loud soundtrack too with Mika, Sukhbir, Sonu Nigam, etc. It’s Punjabi at its best. Then there’s an urban rom-com called Amit Sahni Ki List with six girls and a guy who has OCD. Then there’s Revolver Raani that’s directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia. It’s a deep, psychotic, twisted love story with Kangna and me. It’s just a journey into some very dark places. The next is Golu Pappu which is a kids film. I am very clear about what I am doing with my career and a guy like me needs to create a niche. I am doing just that. I am a fan of Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, and Will Ferell. The top five grossing stars in Hollywood are – Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. That’s two comedians on that list. Now what’s happening is that young comic roles are coming my way and Kunal Roy Kapur’s way but the problem is that they are just casting younger and not writing younger. I want to show my audience a good range of laughter in the next two to five years.
Being a stand up comedian who writes his own acts, are you also looking at writing scripts?
When I met you last time during Delhi Belly, my company was developing scripts. We wrote five films and three have been picked up by different studios. Starting from January, I will be starting my film with Nikhil Advani. We are co-producers and I am starring in it too. In July, we have a film that’ll be shot in Africa backed by another studio.
How do you sum up your journey in Bollywood so far?
In Badmaash Company I looked like a 90’s throw-up. In Delhi Belly I was bald and covered in cement. What Go Goa Gone has beautifully done is shown the audience that I can look normal and can act (laughs). I was playing a straight guy (laughs). I could be a poker-faced guy and still make people laugh. Now that I am known and have created a brand in some way or the other, it’s time to experiment a bit.
So where do movies that are high concept and low budget fit in?
I think they fit in anywhere yaar! The moment you spend more than Rs. 40 crores on a movie, is the time you are limited to hiring big stars and make a formula film that audience will lap it up. You have to cater to that many people. If you are smart about economics, you can make a film about anything. You can’t release on Eid with a Salman Khan film but you can with another big film on another Friday. There are enough takers now for such movies. It’s proven now. I want to be a saleable box office option and even I know how much one should be spending on me.
Do you think other contemporaries of yours – Sorabh Pant and Tanmay Bhatt should also venture into acting?
I started off as an actor and then became a comedian. Just because you are a stand up comedian, doesn’t make you a good actor. Most of them are not good actors. Even in the U.S., there are hundreds of stand up comedians but not everybody becomes a Seinfeld or can do Everybody Loves Raymond. Russell Peters can sell out Wembley Stadium but you’ll never see him do a major Hollywood project. Sorabh Pant and Tanmay Bhatt are writing books and they are too doing a bunch of things.