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.

29 comments:

NIKHIL BANSAL said...

brilliant review.....no screening of the play in bbay :(

sid said...

ab kya kahen?
tragic post ;)
Bhai,for the unintellectual me,just tell me the moral of the play.
that will do.

trapezium said...

The diary was read posthumously.So if the ghost misses his life ,it was comic,and if he is happy to get rid of it,life was tragic.Depends on how he views and reviews his life.Only,nothing can be done afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Haiii bhagwan,your blues returned.
why a post so soon???
I was not done lapping up the comments
on the previous marriage wala post.

neha said...

“…And when you do, do let me also know, whether the play was a comedy or a tragedy.” What holds meaning for me might be meaningless to you.My comedy may be your tragedy.My rose maybe your thorn and vise versa.So it really does not matter.Having said that,there is an urgency for you to ascribe your own meaning to this life,since a meaningless life is far more terrifying than it is emancipatory.

Captain Subtext said...

Sorry I missed the play now.

But, why are you saying "...and hence this play is hardly recommended." in the last paragraph. It seems like a fairly decent play.

nikhil said...

The play had nothing new to offer.It only held up a mirror and was likeable for being a perfect sounding board for my misery..I had read somewhere that the mark of a good writer is to have an open ended play to raise more questions than it pretends to answer. This for once,disappointed me in not providing any solution,in only foregrounding the crisis,that Im already aware of.No better and still stuck from where I hadbegun.

zubin said...

@Nikhil Bansal: Thanks it was a great play.
@Sid: There was no moral. There are no morals, just like there are no wrong or right. And I think it was a good post :).
@Trapezium: Can anything be done in the present. I mean, he was what he was. He could not change.
@Anon: Hehe. My blues have not returned. The play was just awesome. And gave you plenty to think.
@Neha: Is a meaningless life really that bad? I dont know. I think all lives are meaningless.
@Arnav: this is what happens when u dont proof read what u write - I meant highy recommended :). And the play was really awesome.
@Nikhil: I do not agree with you.I think the writer pretty much raised a lot of questions. For example, that monologue on God was a piece of art. Gave a totally different dimension to the entire thing. And the bit about Hamlet and Romeo Juliet. I think, U missed the speech when the clown was chasing the protagonist down - that was the entire plays essence.

Anonymous said...

Each man thinks his own lifes tragic enough to pen an autobiography or stage a play,when all experience almost similar conflict and emotions. If life be a sweet jocular comedy all along,it wud again become sickeningly tragic because there would be no more challenges left for us to overcome.Lesson I grasped was of Life being a sexually transmitted disease from which no one escapes alive.The reason of plays success was solely in raising questions,while not furnishing answers or in staging that
Tragedy can be defused by comedy .Me thinks that even comedy sometimes emerges from the interstices of the tragic.
In the long run,each one of us have to know that there is no person,principle or institution worth living or dying for. left to ourselves to make sense of it,while reckoning life as a dark comedy or comedy of errors and move on with whatever one thinks is worth.

Anonymous said...

Each man thinks his own lifes tragic enough to pen an autobiography or stage a play,when all experience almost similar conflict and emotions. If life be a sweet jocular comedy all along,it wud again become sickeningly tragic because there would be no more challenges left for us to overcome.Lesson I grasped was of Life being a sexually transmitted disease from which no one escapes alive.The reason of plays success was solely in raising questions,while not furnishing answers or in staging that
Tragedy can be defused by comedy .Me thinks that even comedy sometimes emerges from the interstices of the tragic.
In the long run,each one of us have to know that there is no person,principle or institution worth living or dying for. left to ourselves to make sense of it,while reckoning life as a dark comedy or comedy of errors and move on with whatever one thinks is worthwhile.The play was nothing but a painful reminder of what exactly living life is-fitting into society? Yet alienation is no life either,even if one makes it a way of life.life is more of a struggle for an alieneated bohemian than for a herd following conformist and promises tragedy for both.So either way it’s very much a pain..the play was not even escapist,only the enactment scores.

rohit said...

Zub,In appreciating and going on to write such a review shows that like the protagonist you also have many past ghosts to exorcise.
Strangely,the play reminded me of pirandellos play Henry IV and sadly,left me no wiser.The void that it attempted to create is commendable yet perilous in its own way since in the absence of a definite meaning or purpose,my mind has a tendency to turn upon itself.Have also noticed that not everyone feels this meaninglessness.Most live in a comatose state and are mostly happy or at least find something to be happy about.And if life is meaningless,are we here just to copulate and multiply like animals.And are there no objective universal truths but only subjective versions of a single reality?

abhishek said...

Great review.Some dialogues and their understanding destabilized my long standing notions,and unlike the spirit,I always find my past perfect and present tense.

zubin said...

@Anon: What is a tragedy. Cant the same story be told both as a tragedy and a comedy depending on the viewpoint of the protagonist? And again, what is the meaning of life? Is anything worth dying for?
@Rohit: I have many past ghosts to exorcise, which make me appreciate this even more. And yeah, not everyone feels so meaningless - but I also believe that you can have a life of meaning or happiness. And I am sure there are no objective truths.
@Abhishek: Thanks, and that is true for everyone or most of us, I guess.

aman said...

@Rohit,Zubin

Found nothing spectacular in the play.Performed and staged well,but that’s that.The person who sulks is the one who expects too much outa life.Like the protagonist in the three given stages.I am regretless today,not because I have everything I ever wanted from life but because I gave life my best shot.If life gives me shit in return,am ok.Life offers all a mixed bag,good is easily digested but bad part is cribbed about. Cmon! You dnt get everything,but u will get something.Flee these past ghosts-in a of ifs and buts I would hav been a president too.

Anonymous said...

Tragedy and comedy are the two extremes of lifes spectrum.A real person is stoic.
I second Neha in believing that a person must have his delusions to live. If you look at life squarely,too honestly and too clearly life does become unbearable because it's a pretty tragic enterprise.

zoozoo said...

You could have been a writer but decided to study engineering instead.
Now that was tragic
Had you been a writer you would have been wistfully longing for this“evil corporate world”
Tragic again

Now,you can author some books sipping JackDaniels.

peg said...

Gawd,you are hell bent on intellectualizing life than living it.
>” rat race…story of Ghost's Diary could well be the story of you and I”
You might be in a “rat race”,I am in a horse race.tadaa.
both die.ok.period.
>“But he is averse to doing any work, because well, work is work. Work is not life”
Work becomes play when its interesting.Certainly, not enjoying work,eh?
>”Is it really normal to easily become a slave of the evil corporate empire?’
You chose it,remember?wonder why,to impress ppl?girls?when not even in4matrimony?minds slave not corporates.
>“He is sure the play will make people cry and that people will love to cry”
who cries for others?People cry for their own selves.Bitter truth.Chanakya said so.
>”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.”
and whats tragic in that? Doesn’t he want a normal life for himself?
Wat he wants to do then? wat is ‘normal’for him? Guzzle wine n nuzzle women? Open a poultry farm n raise chikens?Become an ascetic?
Hamlet? Hohohoho……No siree,u a Falstaff in disguise
set ur priorities straight pyaare,life unbuttons itself on everyone.
No doubt humour is not your strong point

zubin said...

@Anon: I dont agree with you and Neha. Life is beautiful and happy if you live it. You do not need delusions to go through. But yeah, your logic is the reason for multiple religions and things like love cropping up. :)
@Zoozoo: You make a few assumptions. For I could not have been a writer had I not studied engineering. I suck at writing.On the other hand, I am pretty good at science. And now that I am a writer, I do not long for the evil corporate world. And I absolutely HATE Jack Daniels. I have had so much of the stuff that I hate it now. So yeah, all of your arguments have been shot down. Tragedy or comedy? :)
@Peg: It is the self imposing over confident idiots, who do not have a clue about what happens in the world and life, but still believe they have the answer to everything, that makes the world seem a sorrier place than it is.
All I can say is that your arguments remind me of George W. Bush, or Dubya, as you might like to call him.
You have no fucking idea about who I am and what I do, but your narrow brain cells have made you make false assumptions about me. And moreover, you have had the gall to come to my blog and vent it out. Well here is it, just like the Iraqis are telling the stupid Dubyaman, "Fuck you."
As a matter of fact, I am not a slave of the evil corporate empire, am unemployed, and enjoy life. Just like the Dude. And just like the Dude, I abide. Yep, I am probably going to end up in a hermitage. But atleast, I will be happy. It is not too tough, try it. Live and let live. And do not try to further increase your already inflated ego just by bringing down other people.
And the next time you do comment on someone's blog, it will be better if you have the courage to write your real name, instead of hiding under a pseudonym. What does peg mean anyways?

Witness said...

I liked it too...lots of questions but of course the answers are eluding:)maybe there are none.

Witness said...

And I simply love reading the dialogues between you and your redaers:)

prachi said...

A thought provoking and a well worded post.
Life ,plays reflection,is out-and-out tragic.whatever the perspective.I differ with your response to anon and Neha

The play,very much like life itself,is vital in posing the question of tragedy.since the very question of tragedy is inextricably linked with the meaning of life. Living life without a meaning is not living but merely existing.And why should we exist where we are not needed? do we ever ask an animal to go and get a life? We all are searching for something that lends meaning to our lives.Primarily,meaning of God,and if at all he exists.God becomes important since man helplessly knows that all roads lead to death.Life cannot be only in existing and then popping off one day.Especially not for a superior being as man.We all fail to find this meaning and hence our lives can be taken as tragic.Death is a tragic end to life.Nothing defies death.People find meaning in different things because this meaning keeps them going,which makes them believe they are not existing but living with a certain goal, with control of at least some things. As people get old,nearing the end,they lose their other delusions and seek ultimate meaning in God.
Also,I don’t see religion as negative or even a delusion.No religion teaches violence or injustice.It is the comparative religion and its resultant complexes which makes it damaging.Religion becomes oppressive when imposed on people.Spirituality would be a better word to denote positive values,since today religions synthesise riots and spells intolerance and violence.
man questions this tragedy of life,as in the play,only when he is fed up by the circus of the outside world and realizes that every accomplishment or relationship does not lead to happiness and is tragic at the core by virtue of its transitoriness and idiocy,He then divorces himself from the society and other such bondages and becomes usually reclusive.Desperately seeking an answer within him,becomes centered and still.This positioning process is called meditation.Knowing God through yourself.As a part of cosmos.But meditation,or the opening of the third eye,as it is called, is usually very difficult since the lure of outside world is too enticing for mortals to ignore.
Life susceptible to death and definitely not run by oneself can only be tragic.The lens to look at this tragedy could be a comic one.

had to express this long comment.
but again,very well put.
keep them coming.

prachi said...

Meditation comes only to desperate strife torn people ,voluntarily giving up on life and its existential meaninglessness and looking within.Very boring and tough,meditation becomes the last resort of a suffering mind looking for wisdom.But opens the door to every riddle of life,whether of past or present,leading to infinite joy and an unending happiness.Comes to people as the last and an only refuge in describing the paranormality that eludes most mortals.

Anonymous said...

the postlink given below,was the day comic or tragic?


http://anakinturnsevil.blogspot.com/2006/03/iiml-interview-story.html

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zubin said...

@Shweta: And maybe the answers are different for everyone. And thanks :).
@Prachi: Maybe you are right in what you say, but I believe that a life of meaning, for normal people, is not actually a life of happiness. A life of meaning, for example, means work :). And a life of happiness. It is a balance I guess for everyone. And I also agree to you for the use of religion, spirituality and Meditation. But then again, a person who meditates is not living a normal life, is he? Is meditation also not a hallucination of some sort? Taking this forward, what is real and what is not? And thanks a lot :).
@Anon: It was a comedy, definitely for me. However, it is a tragedy of the system because even after this comic interview, I got through IIM Lucknow.

prachi said...

let me first begin by admitting that I have not yet embarked on the path I have suggested.This path is pivotal because we are here to realize God.Wwe are not even familiar with this concept of God,thats why probably the process of meditation becomes important again.To know if God exists,his nature,our purpose here and several other vague theories and hypothesis of death,reincarnation and soul.
Something can be termed as hallucinatory only when we have never experienced it or find it vague.And in no way it’s similar to drugs and things of substance abuse which gives immediate short term happiness,and gives absolutely no knowledge at all of what we are and why we are here.It is more like a pain killer,relief for some time.Meditation brings an understanding of the real meaning of life along with happiness and is much more than a hallucination, leading to a strong intuition and paranormal experiences which enables one to know life and death better.I believe that knowing the nature of death itself is something mysterious and out of ordinary.
One would not pray,want God or even look for Him if he is happy with whatever life has to offer.A pizza or a vacation can easily satisfy him.He never asks ‘whats more to this’? They are happy with whatever they have,and donot seek life’s purpose or find it at all meaningless.Work,job,education are simply frills to life,add-ons,and not hold the key to understand life and death.
Some are only curious,but for a handful, the pain of life becomes an intense desperation.A real need to know why inspite of having all that should make life meaningful and happy, they are still restless,and meditation is an answer to that.. A normal human being in his normal life can know nature through meditation.It is not a full time job.It is some time earmarked everyday to center and concentrate within and even if done daily,might take years.Later at its advanced stage, a person knows all his past experienced lives,his karmic bindings,about how the universe runs and is able to predict the future accurately.Also,hes able to figure out a persons nature by simply looking at him and have his intuition or gut feeling(labelled at times as fuzzy logic) powerfully infalliable to guide him through life.
People who suffer a lot in life,or have exhausted all options,and have nothing to fall back upon to make sense of life take to this path.It’s boring for the ordinary,or for those mildly curious because they can still find some happiness or meaning in life,when in reality there exists none..It is tough because It might take time,maybe it is natures way of testing ones desperation,intensity of suffering of those who want to know nature and her secrets.

Hope that helped.

मिहिर said...

बहुत अच्छा लिखा है
अलग दृष्टिकोण है

Anonymous said...

Tragedy is life,life is tragedy.If Life imitates Art, can God be sued for copyright infringement?

Anonymous said...

IT HAS COME TO OUR NOTICE THAT OUR ZUBIN HAS BECOME TOO SMUG TO WRITE ANY POST AT ALL.
ALL THOSE WHO WANT HIM TO WRITE MORE OFTEN SHOULD NOT POST ANY COMMENTS FOR THE NEXT TWO ENTRIES OF HIS.
LETS JOIN HANDS IN OUR DEMAND FOR MORE POSTS.