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The man and his math

Director Dev Benegal   | Photo Credit: arranged

Director Dev Benegal is fascinated, earnestly, by the journey of Srinivasa Ramanujan from Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, to Cambridge University. Benegal believes that we are, as a nation, what we are today because of the works of the greatest mathematician that the country ever produced.

“He was a genius far ahead of his times and math was his creative expression of numbers and not his means to make money. His was an extraordinary, inspiring and emotional journey,” says the filmmaker, talking to Metro Plus while in town to address the first National UK Alumni Meet organised by the British Council.

The filmmaker, who gave us the much acclaimed English August, Split Wide Open and Road Movie, has been researching on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan for four years. It will be no mundane biography, he promises. “ Sacred Numbers is an attempt to look at what inspired Ramanujan, who was not born in a wealthy family and had no resources, to go to the seat of mathematics — Cambridge. The film will explore his life at an emotional level — the struggle of his parents, particularly his mother; Ramanujan's relationship with his wife, which is one of the greatest love stories of our times; the sacrifices that the wife had to make which are unknown and unheard of; and the bond that Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy shared,” explains Benegal.

Benegal did not rely on existing texts on Ramanujan and went to the place where it all began — the dusty streets of Kumbakonam, the majestic Sarangapani temple and its timeless architecture… “The place is a seat of culture, architecture and education. Ramanujan's family lead a spartan, simple life,” says Benegal. The film will be multi-lingual, like most movies of Benegal. “We Indians speak in three languages at the same time and make perfect sense. This story demands a mix of Tamil and English. I'd want to make this a movie that audience worldwide can watch,” he says. The cast? “Ramanujan died young, at 32. So obviously I won't have 40 plus actors playing the lead. We will have young Indian and British actors.”

The director believes that the story is relevant today. “Our ATMs work on the principle of Ramanujan's Partition Theory. His Conjecture principle is the basis of our Googles and Wikipedias. Ramanujan was laughed at when he expressed his desire to be able to access all the world's libraries at the click of a button. Today, we are doing precisely that,” he explains.

Still, we are intrigued as to what drew Benegal to make a biopic on Ramanujan, apart from the fact that he too studied at the Cambridge University. “My father was born in Triplicane three years after the death of Ramanujan. So, there's a personal connect,” smiles the filmmaker.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 5:18:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-man-and-his-math/article14957435.ece

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