TEDIndia

TEDIndia Session 7: The Power of Stories

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Abhay Deol at TEDIndia, Session 7, “Power of Stories,” November 6, 2009, in Mysore, India. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

Beginning the last session of the day, Lakshmi Pratury takes the stage and explains that this theme was chosen because she believes that stories are extremely powerful. She says that the TEDIndia team wanted to share stories through the eyes of many different kinds of storytellers.

Ramachandra Budihalwalks on to the stage with a backpack. He explains that he will tell a story using technology. He’s going to take us back to experience ancient Hampi and the ruins of Vijayanagara with an augmented reality demo. He pulls out a headset, places it over his eyes and begins projecting his augmented reality system. He uses its GPS system to go from the campus of Infosys, up the map to Hampi and begins exploring the wonders of the ancient city from the stage, explaining at points that he’s even getting tactile feedback. For the first time anywhere, he says, it’s a live demo from the third and first perspectives. Budihal considers the innovation a storytelling unit that can be used to engage, entertain, educate, immerse and transform. We create what we imagine, he explains, and technology is the way to realize our dreams, so he calls this imagineering. Read more about Ramachandra Budihal’s extraordinary research organization here >>

Abhay Deol is a Bollywood actor and brand new producer. He asks us to watch a trailer for a movie he stars in, and then tells the story behind the movie. This story is true, he explains, and his character (a thief) is in jail. They decided to make a movie about him because everyone he met, even his victims, could not help but find him charming. Deol can’t understand why Bollywood doesn’t pursue more real stories like thus one. He shows the trailer for hid first production attempt — Dev.D, which is a retelling of the classic Indian story of Devdas. He wanted to tell the story without pushing everything under the carpet to make it look pretty. He shows another trailer and goes on to explain that he wants to see change in Bollywood. He says that the mindset of the audience is changing. They want new stuff. A new wave is happening today in Bombay. There are stories all over India to be told, and he relates some interesting examples. You can be entertaining and socially conscious at the same time, he concludes. To see all his work, visit Abhay Deol’s profile on IMDb.com >>

Shekhar Kapur, who directed Elizabeth, tears up his speech, just a few minutes into being on stage and says, “Now, I’m in absolute panic.” It’s a symbolic gesture he does everyday, he explains. He allows myself to go into chaos, hoping that some truth will come out of it. The first thing he learned about storytelling is to panic, because that is the only way to get rid of your mind. Out of the emptiness, comes a moment of creativity. We create stories to define our existence. A film tells a story. Showing the scene from Elizabeth: The Golden Age where Elizabeth realizes her lady-in-waiting is pregnant for Walter Raleigh, he asks, “What am I trying to say here?” Kapur explains how he used the imposing stone to show Elizabeth is not powerful in this moment and shoots down to show that she is a bottom of an emotional well. Ultimately, he explains, a story is a contradiction but all of us are constantly looking for harmony and he must find a way to create both. Read more about Shekhar Kapur on his homepage here >>

Ryan Lobo was in documentary film, but would find himself taking photographs. The photo-taking became almost compulsive. Now, he tells his stories through photography. He shares three recent stories of mine that exemplify what he aims for in his work — compassionate storytelling. In Liberia, he tells the story of a once famous warlord who commanded child soldiers and committed horrific crimes. This man, Joshua has now repented and finds those he hurt to ask forgiveness. Does forgiveness and redemption replace justice? Lobo’s second story is of an oddly successful contingent of all-Indian, all-women UN peacekeepers in Liberia that have also inspired many of the local women. His third storytelling series is of the Delhi Fire Service, who, due to traffic jam, were late in getting to slum to out a large fire and were attacked by hostile crowds. Lobo’s pictures help him to tell these stories beautifully, even when the subject matter is not beautiful, and their portraits of the human condition are stunning. To see Ryan Lobo’s work, visit his photostream on Flickr >>

Ananda Shankar Jayant is a classical Indian dancer and begins her time on stage dancing. Then she stops, and comes forward to the mike. She tells the audience that on July 1, 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and realized she had an unwelcome, uninvited life partner. She needed something to pull her out of this. She went from beautiful to bald in three days and climbing a staircase was sheer torture. She decided to go to her dance studio every day and re-learn everything she had learned since she was four years old, through the pain of chemo. She made the image of the goddess Durga — the fearless one — her own. She begins a new dance now, one inspired by her current vision herself. Drawing with the henna on her feet, while dancing on a huge stretched canvas, she creates a spectacular angry face that her musicians hold behind her at then end of her performance. The audience jumps to a standing ovation. Visit Ananda Shankar Jayant’s website to learn more about her story >>