Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ghost's Diary

(I don't normally write about movies and plays, and their reviews, and my technical understanding of theater is minimal, to say the least. I do not understand the finer technicalities of the music or lighting, for example, and am unable to appreciate them fully as well. However, I really loved the Ghost Diary for the story, and how it has been brought upon the stage, and this is what is mentioned here. That is not to take the appreciation away from the production, direction and the music and lighting effects of the play)

At the end of the play, while the actors are preparing to take the bow, Deepak Dhamija, the writer, producer, director of the Ghost's Diary, says, "We still have not figured out whether it was a comedy or a tragedy." An apt comment, for the Ghost's Diary makes you laugh, and is refreshingly witty at times, but when it all ends, you are left feeling with the kind of sad feeling that the end of Jaane bhi do Yaaron left you with. Like the aforementioned film, the play can be best termed as a satire - on human life, and the endless rat race that you and me are a part of.

The play is essentially a monologue of the main actor and his obsession with writing a tragedy. The days of the great tragedy are gone, and he wants to make people cry through his writing. The action unfolds as the protagonist takes us through the various events in his life, which he captures in his diary. Through it you know about his troubled relation with his parents and teachers, the failed first crush and his generally "tragic" life.

The three actors, who portray the protagonist in various phases of life, do a really commendable job. The naughty schoolboy has been portrayed rather brilliantly by Tushar Sharma, while the college going, angry Puneet Khokhar is pretty awesome too. However, it is the middle aged, Manpreet Vora who is the star of the show and has the best dialogues, including a two minute monologue where he portrays God. And yeah, there is a clown, portrayed by Ali, who represents the "comedy" part of the play, an anti-thesis to the "tragedy" of the antagonist.

The protagonist is obsessed with tragedy, and after reading Anne Franks' Diary of a Young Girl, becomes convinced that his whole life is like a concentration camp - with his parents and teachers being the Nazis. So like Anne Frank, he plans to live out the tragedy and write it all down. Over time, however, as he sees the love his parents have for him, he realizes his life is not so bad. And so, his initial attempts at publishing a tragic diary fails. His father wants him to become a doctor, and he has the potential to become one, but all he wants is to write a tragedy.

The story of Ghost's Diary could well be the story of you and I - a person trying to fit into the world, but being unable to do so. Not because he is handicapped or poor or mentally retarded, but just because he does not want to. He does not want to be the best, and his approach to life is made clear when he says, "I just want to live life". He believes he lives his life to the maximum and says, in order to live, "I will beg or borrow or steal". But he is averse to doing any work, because well, work is work. Work is not life. He just wants to write a tragedy.

And then he decides the way to write a play - a tragic play, one that will bring the essence of the Antigone and the Hamlet back. He is sure the play will make people cry and that people will love to cry, despite being told by his friend Poo - who calls him once in a while - that people nowadays do not care for tragedies as their own lives are tragic enough. The various theater groups also fail to appreciate a tragedy and

The play that he writes is almost his own story - about a talented guy who doesnt want to make use of his talents. He feels unfit to live in the new world, obsessed with money and success. He does not do it, not because he cannot, but because he does not care. His tragedy is not being able to fit into the world, and do a job that other people think normal. Is it normal doing something you do not like - for money? He compares work, all useless, corporate work to prostitution, and chides the world through it. It is a tragedy of our generation, which is so lost in money and success, that they have lost their own selves.

The play that he writes, however, only brings smile to the audiences. They fail to recognize the tragedy of the world. The play fails as a tragedy, and our protagonist fails in his attempt. Which prompts his first suicide attempt, which also fails. And his second play, about God and Satan, which shocks people so much that he is attacked and injured. And then his second suicide attempt, which as much as the rest of his life, also fails.

However, over time he is brought up by his relatives and friends to live a normal life. And he does, which is probably the biggest tragedy.

Ghost's Diary counters you with a lot of questions that have troubled me - What is the meaning of life? Is there a God, and if there is, what is he doing above? Is it really normal to easily become a slave of the evil corporate empire?

And perhaps, the biggest question of them all, what is a tragedy and a comedy? Is it not just a point of view? One man's meat is another man's poison, they say, and hence maybe there are no clear tragedies - or comedies. We root for the hero because the story is told through his perspective. Was Romeo and Juliet a tragedy or a stupid romantic comedy? Was Hamlet, for that matter, a tragedy, or just Shakespeare's comic satire on a feuding family? Will Mahabharat or Ramayana be different seen from the perspective of Duryodhana?

Ghost's Diary does not give you any answers - but the play will definitely force you to think and find your own answers. Not many works of art do that, and hence this play is highly recommended. And when you do, do let me also know, whether the play was a comedy or a tragedy. For like the much acclaimed writer-producer-director, I am also confused.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The filter theory of relationships

(The last post was officially the most commented one on this blog. It beat the previous comment total of 50, set by a controversial post condemning the newly set Training and Placement Department in IIT Delhi, back in 2005 by a whole 3 comments. This last post, on the other hand, condemned nothing. Except for the small matter of the presence of God. So the lesson is learned. Controversy does not always sell. Thanks everyone :D. I had prepared a speech to thank everyone for crossing the 50 comment mark barrier for the first time in the blog, but I have lost it somewhere during my many bus trips to Dharamshala, Shimla and Chandigarh. So well. A simple thank you will have to suffice for now.)

Which brings me to the main point of this particular post. The filter theory of relationships. (Suggested previous reading: The 2-d ZSV Matrix). Now, just about an year ago - in December last year in fact - I had written about the XYZ theory of love, relationship and commitment/ here.. Using this argument, I had proposed that arranged marriages are actually unnatural and hence more liable to fail, especially in today's modern world. A consultant, or an ex-consultant, must however challenge his own thoughts. Ten months older, and wiser, I challenge the widely appreciated theory - and present the filter theory to prove why arranged marriages are the way forward.

The filter theory is simple, and while it uses basic mathematics, the nitty gritty details are not too tough to understand. Moreover, the filter theory is also pretty consistent with my seminal work - the 2-d ZSV theory. Infact, the filter theory is like a prequel to the ZSV theory. The theory explains why there is attraction among guys and girls and how do the relations x=0, y=0 change ("Nahin doongi aur nahin loonga") to x=1, y=1 state. ("Degi to Le loonga").

You know, there are different filters which a guy is looking to meet in a prospective partner. And a gal too. These filters include (among others) external attributes like height, beauty, weight, figure, dressing style, dental hygiene, overall hotness and others. (For example, a guy might say my prospective partner should be 5'4" to 5'6" tall, should be good looking, be thin, not very hot, and is equally comfortable in Western and Oriental outfits.) Moreover, there are certain basic filters - which may or may not hold - like country, state, religion, caste etc. (Is she Punjabi?) Similarly, there are professional filters, like educational qualifications, comfort in languages etc, knowledge about the world etc. (Can she speak enough English to interact with my fairly numerous South Indian friends?) Then there is the important cultural capital filter, about book choices, movies, music etc. (Does she like Star Wars?) There might be individual filters like interests in sports and travel. (Does she play and watch sports?)There are filters of social behavior, like smoking/drinking, behavior with friends and family, sense of humor, piety and stuff. (Is she too religious?) Then there are internal characteristics, your character, thoughts on various things and general "compatibility". (Will she take good care of my parents?)

Now well, when you meet a girl, you see of her as a prospective partner if she passes your external attributes parameter - which is the first point of attraction. Over time, as she reveals more of herself to you (stop thinking dirty, you losers!), you pass her through your filters, and see if she matches on those levels. Ofcourse, you are always ready to make allowances in some minor filters = for example, the Star Wars might not be a big deal for some, and for others being Punjabi is not a criteria. But the girl must pass through the other important filters, such as the compatibility filter.

However, while you are judging the girl on these parameters, you yourself are being judged. The girl is also judging you on various parameters, such as smartness, hotness, intelligence, knowledge, money and blah blah blah. Am not really sure what all filters girls use, but the thing is they also use filters to evaluate you, which you might pass, but more often than not, you will fail.

This theory, then gives rise to two distinct problems. According to the filter theory, to choose a perspective partner, you need to meet girls, find out about them, and see if they pass the filter. The first problem, then, is meeting girls and having a suitable sample set to choose girls. Having studied in places of academic excellence (and consequently a low girls:boys ratio), and being pretty much a geek in school (which had some very hot girls, I will admit), the only place where people like you and I can meet girls now is at various parties. But most girls you meet at parties are committed, and even if they are single, it just does not come naturally to us. The talking to them part, and taking their phone number and going ahead on a date, thing, that is. It is tough. Really tough. Even after reading the Game, and watching all the televised episodes of HIMYM, I am sorry to say it, Barney, but I suck at it. And I am sure so do most of you. And this is just the smaller problem.

The second, and the major problem, then is for girls who pass your matrix, you should also pass their matrix for a relationship to start. For her to go from x=0 to x=1 ("Nahin doongi se doongi), you need to pass her filter. That, dear friends, in today's times and age, is not easy. Girls who are most likely to pass your filter require you to be smart, intelligent, rich, handsome, neat and tidy, socially acceptable, humorous, sporty and what not. Which, as my single status testifies, I am unable to match.

So, you have these two seemingly unsolvable problems and are confined to a lifelong single status, right? Thankfully the answer is no. Like Aishwarya Rai in the shampoo commercial, its one solution to two (oops: the Ash ad had five problems, but I will keep the line anyway) problems. And the solution is: arranged marriage.

Imagine meeting a good looking girl in a party/bar, who passes your external attributes filter. Now, the problem no.1 manifests itself. How do you approach her? The question is so difficult, that by the time you come up with an answer, either she has left, or you are drunk beyond any level of comprehensible conversation. Hence, most often than not you just wonder what if, and that is that. However, in arranged marriages, you can approach any number of girls through the right appropriate route. Arranged marriage then helps you increase your sample size. Problem No. 1 solved.

The other advantage of an arranged marriage is that because it is a traditional way, the male half still dominates. In an arranged marriage arrangement then, the girl's filter is superimposed by her parents'. The parents filter is simple, well educated, rich and socially adequate, and potential to earn money. Smartness, cleanliness, and external attributes are not something they pay much attention to. And voila! that is something you and I are easily able to clear - the parent's filter that is. You have finally been able to crack the filter, and are ready to be in a relationship. Problem No. 2 solved.

However, some ignorant people, like this friend I was chatting to last night, believes that there are no girls who can crack the filter available in arranged marriage - His belief is all good girls are taken. I strongly disagree. I have seen my friends get into both love marriage and arranged marriage, and by that sample space, and using only the external attributes filter, I will say arranged marriages rock!!

Epilogue: As always, the filter theory is a work in progress. I am working on a mathematical model to explain this as well for better quantification. Please leave your comments and counter-arguments.