(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.