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Q&A: Vir Das

Stand-up comedian and actor on Alien Chutney, his new comedy rock band

Rolling Stone IN Apr 10, 2010

Nathan Grossman

Vir Das has been making people laugh with his stand-up act for a while now: His Broken Das was a sold-out comedy tour. And now, between that and his acting assignments, he’s managed to squeeze in time for Alien Chutney, a comedy rock band inspired by the likes of Tenacious D.

So, Alien Chutney”¦ Tell me about it.

[Laughs] I realise, I completely realise how stupid the name sounds. But believe me, it is fully intended. I’m a standup comedian. I was part of this atrocious rock band in college called Medusa. This is when dinosaurs were still roaming the planet; this is the late Nineties. This was South Campus, New Delhi, at Sri Venkataswara College, also known as Venky’s. So I was the vocalist of their rock band and we did like Def Leppard and Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chilli Peppers and stuff. And normally you would think that with age, such urges would go away but apparently they haven’t. So after doing a reasonable amount of stand-up”¦ I have been wanting to get back to music for a really long time. I’ve been playing the guitar for about 12 or 13 years now. I’ve been meaning to get together with pianists and percussionists and make some sophisticated music.

But you never brought that into your stand-up act?

No, not until Broken Das, this comedy tour that I did last year. It was one of those things where I was experimenting with different kinds of comedy. And I kind of wanted to get into the musical thing as well. So I wrote two songs. One was called ”˜You Look Like a Ladki, You Feel Like a Man’ and the other one was called ”˜Mujhe Tumse Nafrat Hai.’ And ”˜Nafrat’ was intended to be like a Richard Marx love ballad with that kind of piano and violins and everything, but have pure hatred in the lyrics.

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Where does the inspiration come from? Is it comedy rock bands like Flight of the Conchords or is it a spoof thing like Weird Al Yankowic?

Actually it’s more towards Tenacious D. Tenacious D has stupid and retarded lyrics but very sophisticated music. Flight of the Conchords is a decent band but they’re not”¦ their musical value is a little less than their comedic value. And I try and equal that as well. So I have teamed up with people who are a lot more talented than I am, and I rely on them for very good music. So we do something called the ”˜We Are Like This Only Blues’ which is about Indian current events. We have a villageman song called ”˜Baby-an From the Gaaon’ and that’s sort of our blues anthem to a gaaon man sleeping with women in the city.

So are the lyrics again like the names, bilingual?

Yes, it’s about 60-70 per cent Hindi and then we got English in there as well. It just depends on what songs we are doing. We wanted to keep the context very very Indian. So we’ve done that.

Does the music come first or the lyrics?

It depends on what I’ve been writing. Like I wrote this song the other day about man boobs. Because I was on a flight and I happened to notice that 90 per cent of Punjabi men for some reason have man boobs. So we wrote a song called ”˜Pappe You Are a Dude, If You’ve Got the Man Boob.’ So that sort of went from the song. I wrote that on the flight, drove straight to my bandmates Kaizaad and Kabir and we composed this sort of Sid Vicious punk rock song to it. Then we have a song called ”˜Tadkaa,’ which is about having sex with a sabziwali and that came completely from the music. It’s in that ”˜Every Rose Has its Thorn’ sort of nice acoustic space. So it just depends on what I’m writing about at the end of the day.

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You have about 17 songs ready. So any plans for an album?

Yeah, yeah. I can’t tell you who with yet, but we have an album that I think should drop hopefully in July. Because there’s videos to shoot and all. We’ve gone a little electronic with our album. So we’ve got a house track, we’ve got a dance track, we’ve got a pop-like bhangra track as well. We are not positioning ourselves as an upmarket live act, because we cater to even your mini metros etc. I think the album will be the most commercial thing that we’ve really done, because I want it to be played on the radio and all, in whatever limited space Hindi pop is played.

Is there anything up online?
Ummm”¦ no. We are sort of keeping it under wraps. Like I’m a bit of a purist in that. I’m a Dave Matthews fan for instance. They are a road band and they really earned their bones on the road as well. So we’re just trying to tour as much as we possibly can and then we’ll start getting online. Once the album rolls out, we start getting into videos and online and all that.

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