Striking the right equation with Ramanujan’s mien


Dev Patel has managed a sensitive portrayal of the character.

Actor Dev Patel, who plays mathematician Ramanujan in The Man who Knew Infinity, has grown to deeply admire the character that he plays.

“The amount of sacrifices Ramanujan might have had to do to become a trailblazer is incredible. He put so much at stake. He was a strict Brahmin, he broke his caste, he left his young wife at home and travelled across the sea. People think that’s a small thing, but… And then he faced an incredible amount of prejudice because of the colour of his skin and his approach to the medium of mathematics. He was seen as an abstract mathematician, someone who was like the Jackson Pollock of mathematics. He was very radical in a field that was very rigid…,” Dev said at the International Film Festival .

The actor has managed a sensitive portrayal of the character, treading carefully emotions bordered by silence.

Looking back on the making of the film, he recalls, “One of the funniest things that happened on set was a scene that was unfortunately cut from the film. In Cambridge… the two characters [Hardy and Ramanujan] are looking at the boat races [from the river bank]… one of the British students pushes Ramanujan into the water. He is holding his book in his hand, full of equations, it’s like gold. And he falls in and the only thing they’re worried about is this book staying dry. And the river, with students drinking all night, peeing on it — not to be rude — it’s filthy. It was one of those days when I had to swallow my pride and fall into this sewage. It was very cold and I had to do it again and again. And in the end it got cut. But it was very funny, me and Jeremy, he’s helping me get out of the water and I go back in… Chaplinesque.”

In the film, Ramanujan’s mathematics is not foregrounded, but it’s always there. It is more like a landscape over which the story purposefully drives along.

Important pieces

Yet, some singularly important pieces of Ramanujan’s work are highlighted gently and without detracting the focus on relationships. Also each and every prop associated with the math has carefully prepared, with inputs from Ken Ono, mathematician from Emory University.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 6:13:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/striking-the-right-equation-with-ramanujans-mien/article7905214.ece

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