Oct 062011

“Death is not extinguishing the light, it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

Rabindranath Tagore

This morning, I woke to the sad news of the premature death of Steve Jobs. He is acknowledged in the end credits of all three films of our Tagore dance film trilogy. This is not because we had any direct contact with him. It is because we simply would not have made the films (or indeed any of our audiovisual and musical output) without the affordable creative tools resulting from his visionary role at Apple.

The enthusiasm with which he would announce the endless possibilities of revolutionary new product after revolutionary new product was always infectious and inspiring. The only limits were those of our own imagination and creativity. Without that inspiration, I wouldn’t have sat down to see whether iMovie, which had just appeared as standard software on my then-iMac, could be used to put together a 45-minute documentary about Tagore dance for Kaberi’s PhD thesis.

From that adventure, my exploration of iMovie moved on to the trailer for Kaberi’s Manipuri dance performances and the promotional DVD it introduced. The DVD (made using iDVD) helped her to secure her first solo performances in Europe, including at the Nehru Centre in London and the Museum of Asian Arts in Nice.

None of this, though, was really what I considered to be a ‘film’ … but then I started wondering what the difference between film and video was. As a pure experiment, I took up the challenge of a Satyajit Ray Foundation competition to make a short film of up to 25 minutes on the experience of Asians. The result was Adapting, combining video we had shot since when we first met with sequences specially filmed to complete the narrative.

The film didn’t win anything in the competition. However, it gave me at least the satisfaction of documenting the major change of environment Kaberi had to go through after our marriage … as well as observing that everyone who watched it laughed in the right places and that some were even moved to tears by the end.

Our next audiovisual challenge was to devise a stage backdrop which would allow Kaberi to hold the attention of her audience for 90 minutes at London’s Purcell Room, despite being the only performer on the stage. By then, we were used to watching Steve Jobs introducing Apple products as the only performer on the stage against a huge, projected backdrop.

This led to us using Keynote – the cinematic presentation software originally developed as the medium for Steve Jobs’ keynote presentations – to project a virtual revolving set on a screen as a backdrop for Kaberi’s solo Manipuri dance performances. Maybe parking the iMac in a dark corner of the Purcell Room stage was a little unorthodox but it allowed me to introduce Kaberi’s dance performances, while using the iMac’s remote to change from one scene to the next.

By the time we started thinking about Kaberi’s Indian dance workout, I realised I’d outgrown iMovie and iDVD, not to mention Standard Definition. Final Cut Studio was needed. Seeing all the possibilities that offered, I suggested to Kaberi, perhaps rather rashly, that I could make a film of her performing in Santiniketan in a dance-drama. This was the birth of our film versions of Rabindranath Tagore’s dance-dramas Shyama, Chandalika and Chitrangada.

Of course, as for millions of others, our iPod, iPhones and iPad have all become essential parts of our daily lives today, to the extent that we only stay in hotels with free wifi! All this to say that the visionary genius of Steve Jobs has had a profound and inspirational impact on our lives. Offering our special thanks to him in the end credits of the Tagore dance film trilogy is the least we could do.

The 15-minute video above of his Stanford University address to graduates encapsulates his advice to a younger generation, based on his personal experience of life – see here for the text.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs

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