The thing is that Vir Das is always funny. Think whatever you want about him, but he can be counted on for a good time. There are many questions on people’s minds after his Emmy win, and not many of them are objective. I won’t make a case for him or against him because of my personal opinions about his set, him as a comedian, and many of the views he holds and has been vocal about (none of which have to do with his stand-up special on Netflix that called for his blood). But I will say that this man has made poetry out of pettiness in his stand-up special, Landing. An extremely controversial opinion of mine that I will not take arguments against is that I don’t like poetry. However, I can respect the art of it and the attempt at beautifying something so evidently self-important. This is exactly what I feel about Vir Das: Landing.
Admittedly, Vir Das did not deserve the barrage of hate against him due to his previous stand-up set on Netflix. It is undeniable that the hate against him was a bad look for the country itself, and in Vir Das’ own words, we have to be able to differentiate between patriots and nationalists. Personally, there is a lot that Vir Das says that is actually disagreeable, but none of that was on that set. With that out of the way, the only thing I was bored by was that he made an entire one-hour special about the backlash of his previous gig on Netflix, and this is the set that ended up winning an Emmy. Wasn’t the previous special more worthy? But then, the West has a way of ignoring the more deserving Indian art in favor of its lesser contributions. There will be no elaboration on that.
In Vir Das: Landing, it is very easy to be irked by the comedian because of his ‘woe is me’ attitude, but what redeems him is his self-awareness. There is a very subtle manipulation that he uses, where he acknowledges his privilege and paints a perspective of it for the West. In this process, he somehow manages to convey his disadvantages to the people of India present in his audience. There is no question about what he had to face, but somewhere, the over-explanation took away from the severity of his struggle.
Secondly, there were a few gags in between that deviated from the main objective of the set, and it was evident that Vir Das had forced himself to include them. They were jarring to hear and clearly unfunny, which the comedian was aware of. Either he wanted to prove that this new set was not a rant, or he just needed to fill the extra minutes with something, so he picked them. The only problem is that Vir Das could do better, but this time, he was clearly not interested. This is why this Emmy win feels a little off to us. It is not a shade to the comedian himself but a recognition of the fact that his previous special was full of love (and a much better shot), whereas Landing was simply full of indignation and, in some ways, a quest for validation. Also, a win for “Vir Das for India” would have been a far more powerful statement than this was. But moving on from the politics of the affair, it would be nice to see Vir Das have one special where he doesn’t bring up the fact that he unsuccessfully attempted to work in a Bollywood movie a decade ago. The world has long forgiven him for it, and it would be nice if he could, too.
Vir Das has always had a way of intercutting cynicism with sweetness, only to replace it with his own biting sarcasm. It is a manner very characteristic of a Gemini. On that note, why was anyone ever surprised that the ‘Two Indias’ poem came from him? He is a Gemini, so of course, he will address both sides of a coin. If that joke was bad, I promise to work on it in 9–10 business days.
Vir Das is one of the most recognizable faces in the West from the Indian comedy scene, and his win means a lot. Hopefully, just maybe, it will open the way for Indian comics to push the envelope despite what is ‘inside it’, as pointed out by Vir Das. But we also hope that they don’t start their sets with monologues that should only be cringed at in Koffee With Karan. It may be nice to see him on the Koffee set, but then there was an episode with just influencers, and it was more unbearable than a lot of the high-pitched celebs who sit on the couch. Essentially, make no mistake about what Vir Das: Landing actually is. It is funny, smooth, and engaging, and at the same time, it is designed to make you feel bad for the comedian. Vir Das’ anger is completely justified, and he has made it entertaining for the audience, so there is no complaint on our behalf, but the purpose of his special is clear. I must clarify that I say this only partially as a caveat. The other part is pure respect for his hustle to be able to do what he did.
The fact is that we like Vir Das the comedian more than Vir Das the person, and that makes it tough because comedy is about the person to a good extent. Maybe Vir Das, the actor, should come back, in which case he should keep reminding the world that he made a movie a decade ago. Coming back to the first point, there is nothing to do but stan the act of sprinkling sand on the stage. Additionally, nothing tops the passive-aggressive dig at NRIs and Vir Das’ own bathroom story. These were much better jokes than the explanation of the Mumbai slang. Basically, we wish the comedian a controversy-free career so that we can like his jokes without eye-rolling at his self-importance.