It has been argued that Steve Jobs’s 1974 trip to India helped shape the young entrepreneur’s mystic worldview, and so filmmaker Joshua Michael Stern chose to shoot a few key early scenes for his biopic in New Delhi and Vrindavan in August last year. His film, “Jobs,” opens Aug. 16 and stars Ashton Kutcher in a moving and intense portrait of the influential entrepreneur.
Kutcher and Stern spoke to an invitation-only audience after a screening of “Jobs” at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 theater July 25. The audience, comprised largely of high-tech executives, had to be jokingly admonished by emcee Owen Thomas, editor-in-chief of ReadWrite, to put away their Google Glass eyepieces lest they be accused of piracy.
Jobs traveled to India with Daniel Kottke, an early collaborator on the first Apple computer, after the two college students, just 20 years old, came across the book “Be Here Now” by an American guru known as Ram Dass, and later Paramahamsa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” and “Ramakrishna and his Disciples.”
Jobs lent Kottke some money and the boys traveled to India at the time of the Kumbh Mela.
Although the Kumbh is not depicted in the film, a montage in “Jobs” was lensed in such locations as Delhi’s Jama Masjid, the Hauz Khas complex, Safdarjung Tomb and Humayun’s Tomb, working with the location services company Dillywood, whose credits also include “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” “Swades,” “Kal Ho Naa Ho,” “The Darjeeling Limited” and “The Namesake.”
Raised in a working-class suburb of Northern California, college dropout Steve Jobs was one of many young people in that era who searched for the meaning of life in Eastern religion and hallucinogenic drugs. It was when his friend Steve “Woz” Wozniak (played by Josh Gad) turned him on to the potential of computing that Jobs finally found a direction to his life.
“I had three months to prepare for this role,” Kutcher told the audience July 25. “So I read and consumed everything about him that I could. I studied what he studied — including reading ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and works by Edison, and I studied Bauhaus [a style of architecture]. I listened to about 100 hours of audio files of him speaking. I heard that he liked to hike while having meetings, so when I had meetings, I’d go on walks, too.”
Kutcher crafts an alarmingly realistic likeness of Jobs over a 20-year period 1971-1991, from his speech delivery to his graceful and expressive hand movements, and especially in his distinctive, loping walk. The 6’2” actor explained, “I tried to understand why he walked the way he did, and since he liked to walk barefoot a lot of the time, I figured out he walked that way not to stub his toes!”
Kutcher also captures Jobs’ frequent habit of giving a “Namaste” after his public speeches, “from his time spent in India,” he said. “I felt that building this character was actually a procedure of deconstructing it.”
Another film about Jobs is currently being written by Aaron Sorkin, who took an Oscar for his screenplay for the Facebook story “The Social Network.” That film is based on Jobs’ authorized biography by Walter Isaacson.
“Jobs,” which received lukewarm reviews when it was the closing night film of the Sundance film fest in January before being acquired by Open Road Films, does have its share of hokey moments, but one place in which it succeeds spectacularly is in a powerful portrayal of the mysterious Steve Jobs in the early, formative years during which he faced great obstacles to build Apple, then lost control of the company and eventually returned to lead it to historic heights. Jobs died of cancer Oct. 5, 2011.
As of this writing, Apple is the most valuable company in the world, with a market capitalization of more than $418 billion.
Audience member Anupam Chander, an Indian American law professor at the UC Davis School of Law, told India-West after the screening: “I really enjoyed it … the film inspires entrepreneurs to not be afraid to fail.”