Some Ramblings - Steve Jobs(2015) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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For better or worse, deification is an unwanted/unintended offshoot of genius. That brilliance comes from one part of the brain and behavior from another is often overlooked when evaluating an individual as a whole. One need not look far to see how society expects excellence and exemplariness to coexist within the same person, a glance at an average classroom of a typical grade school would do where the kid who usually tops the class in academics is by default made the leader of the group, regardless of the social skills of the whiz kid. And the society comes down just as hard when the (forcibly) anointed fails to match up the (unfair) expectations. A sports superstar is expected to be a role model for the younger generation, a movie star is expected to be the voice of the generation, a well known writer to be an excellent orator and many such, each expectation just as unfair, the misplaced confidence just as unfounded. It is for situations as these that someone quipped, art is always different from the artist. Right after the news of the demise of Steve Jobs broke on the evening news, there was an outpour of grief and gratitude, which were on ample display at the Apple flagship stores at all the major cities across the world, with bouquets and flowers barricading the entrances. And soon after, news stories, documentaries, books and biographies started making rounds with entire sections dedicated to how prickly, exacting and tyrannical he was as a collaborator, creator and commander, as a side note to his artistry, vision and imagination. And so the question comes full circle, when evaluating a certified genius, should the yang be juxtaposed with the yin, or is art just for the art's sake?

However, with a title like 'steve jobs', his ticks were as much a fair game as his tricks. As the legend goes, upon receiving the ultimatum on his terminal disease, Jobs commissioned Walter Isaacson, the famed editor of Time magazine and a celebrated author of biographies of the famous (Einstein, Kissinger), to tell the tale of his life. Walter accepted the proposal on one condition that he be not forced to turn it into a hagiography and that he would write it exactly as he saw it (or heard it, in the hundreds of interviews with Jobs' near and dear, friends and foes). They shook hands on the gentleman's agreement and a while later, the book made its way to the press, luckily while Jobs was still alive. The reaction to the book was comically perplexing. While Jobs reportedly loved the unvarnished look at his life, the Apple acolytes (executives and devotees) hated it for essentially showing the dark side of the moon. The movie based on the book pulls no punches either. Before getting into the brilliance of the script, the masterful direction and the splendid acting, it is important to get this question out of the way - what made Jobs happy? or to put it in another way, at what exact moment was he pleased with himself? For, this was a man who rebelled against the unimaginativeness of the status quo, found fault with practically anything and everything around him (that he didn't 'invent'), was frustrated with how contended the world around was reveling in its mediocrity. So given all these, what was that particular moment, however brief and fleeting, when he was one with the world (or when the world was one with him)? Was it the moment when he pulled the dark blanket off the latest invention on the stage revealing his baby to the world for the first time amidst hoots and thunderous applause? Was it indeed just for that single moment that he devoted his life driving himself and everyone around him insane? What was it that he was looking for - acceptance? validation? or confirmation? The answer, like the man, remains a mystery.

For someone who has made a name (and fame) writing about the machinations and operations of famous and important jobs of mainstream Americana, lurking behind the stage and peering into back offices, exposing the steely skeletal frames, the nuts and bolts and all (on sports media in 'Sports Night', the news media with 'The Newsroom', entertainment via 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip', presidential politics in 'The West Wing' and 'American President'), Aaron Sorkin's successive take of yet another technological misanthrope (after Mark Zuckerberg in 'The social network') who yet again (and ironically so) made the world a far better place to live in, is nothing short of brilliant. That he was able to reconfigure a near 1000 page, linear, straight forward biography into an impressive 3 act structure, each concentrating on an important phase in Jobs' career (and life) and infusing it with all his character flaws and high points - his abrasiveness overlapping his attention to detail, his brilliance making up for his bellicosity, his persuasion and perseverance overshadowing his constant petulance - Sorkin captures the essence of Jobs in a bottle, corks it up, and gives it a good hard shake to reveal the phantasmagoric explosion of lighting, clouds, thunder and color that was Jobs' life.

Even with a brilliant script as this, Danny Boyle's (the director) life wasn't made easy to say the least. This was essentially a 3 act stage play with the majority of action happening in hallways and behind closed doors. The dialogue is fast paced and information laden, and the actors were required to match the rapid fire dialogue with faultless delivery. Amid all these, Boyle somehow makes the action pretty kinetic with expecting editing and roving camerawork. With all the necessary dramatic punches and key silent moments already built into the script, Boyle dons the hat of a true stage director working with the actors, orchestrating their movements and creating an environment where the breathless dialog can breathe easy and deep. And to top it all, Michael Fassbender inhabits the role of Jobs, despite the physical dissimilarities, rounding off his (Jobs') rough edges, creating an individual out of an icon.

At the end of it all, the question even becomes irrelevant whether Jobs was a good man or not, for under the piercing gaze of powerful microscope, there emerges as no such thing as a perfect shape and it would help to remember to not confuse artistry with humanity.

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