Bollywood actor and stand-up comedian Vir Das was prevented from executing an act on stage at a show, which is a part of his ‘Unbelievable Tour’, Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi on the 25th of April. The reason for this interference was an act on the former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. At first, he was interrupted by an anonymous gentleman, who asked him not to “talk about Kalam”, and later by the police, who reached the spot as the received a complaint.
While this is yet another case of artistic freedom being stamped out (the most recent incident being the AIB knockout video taken down), one starts to wonder what is wrong with the Indian spirit and awareness that we have started to take offense at each and every thing. And one would even use power and influence, be it political, social or religious, to shut down what doesn’t appeal to his or her sensitivity and taste. It is actually petrifying.
“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 that’s prime for misuse”, writes a clearly upset Vir Das in an open letter on Facebook, detailing the incident.
He explains further: “It is immature to quote Voltaire in this situation or say “If you don’t like it, don’t attend the show”. If you don’t like it, please attend the show, and tell me why you don’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 (all of which are welcome)…. It’s just so much easier to just make life difficult for us with a phone call”.
The sentiment behind comedy, even if it is non-lenient and slapstick, is to be accepted with a sense of humor, as it is an art form that doesn’t function on held-back gestures. It is blatant and genuinely entertaining. And if one is not fond of this particular art form, he or she is free not to enjoy it.
Vir Das quite rightfully clarifies this point in a letter: “Here’s something that I need you to do: The next time you don’t like a show, leave, or ask for your money back. The next time you call the cops, make sure a crime has been committed. The next time you see 1989 people laughing all around you, try and join them. The next time an artist is in your city, if you really, truly want to see him or her, put your cell phone down and buy a ticket. The next time you file a Police Complaint that shuts down a show and scares the s*** out of people… have the courage to stick around. The next time I’m in town, if you’re a powerful, influential person…. Please just don’t come. This letter isn’t for publicity. It’s because I’ve got a lot more shows to do and I’d like to get back to work.”
The only person who has the right to get offended is the honorable former president himself and it is a known fact that he is too robust for the same.