Vir Das: We are much more than IT guys and cab drivers
Earning a place in the much-loved series Fresh Off the Boat, actor-comedian Vir Das on how the entertainment industry is becoming more inclusive.
The past year has been a landmark of sorts for Vir Das. Even as his production company presented its first venture, Jestination Unknown, the actor-comic found himself onboard the American primetime show, Fresh Off the Boat. "2020 looks daunting," he grins, aware that the word on the street is that the episode featuring Preity Zinta and him may serve as the foundation for a spin-off series centred on an Indian family in the US, tentatively titled Magic Motor Inn. "This year will be acting-heavy for me. Fresh Off the Boat is incredibly funny, and the best part of it was working with Preity. It's nice to bring some genuine brown to American television."
In the much-loved show that focuses on a Taiwanese family residing in the US, Zinta and Das will be seen as an Indian couple. "Preity is a crackling actor. She has been doing this for a long time, so the experience she brought to the table was valuable. With a material like this, our primary job was to be funny and she got that right."
With Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Hasan Minhaj and Mindy Kaling headlining primetime shows, it won't be wrong to say that the representation of actors of Indian origin on screen has evolved. Das says his 2019 ABC offering, Whiskey Cavalier, is proof of how the entertainment industry is becoming increasingly inclusive. "I didn't think I could ever be on American TV as a fancy-suit-wearing weapons expert. We wouldn't get these parts earlier; we would be restricted to [playing] IT guys or cab drivers. It's a good sign that now Indians are offered a diverse range of characters."
Besides his television and web offerings, he travelled across the US with The Loved Tour. Given the current political climate in the Donald Trump-led country, there's apparently growing hostility towards Indians. However, Das asserts it was not reflective in the 90,000 Americans who turned up for his specials last year.
"I don't think there has ever been as much interest in diverse voices as there is now. I do shows beyond the East and West Coast, going to towns in Alabama. The local community is interested in knowing where we come from, our culture and mindset." If he is making waves with international projects, back in the bay, the actor has a homegrown project lined up in Hasmukh, helmed by Nikkhil Advani. "It's ready and will drop online this year. I play a serial killer; a disturbed dark funny man. It's a departure from what I have played so far."
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