By Aranyak Goswami


It is always difficult to capture the life of a momentous genius within confines of a book or a film. It is in fact really tedious to showcase the life of a genius in its truest form and there is an increasing risk to blow things out of proportion, making it either too heroic or too eccentric and shady trying to portray the magnanimity of their talents and accomplishments. The whole attempt becomes even more difficult when the genius we are referring to emerge as one of the greatest super giants in scale and accomplishments, having a very short life span and tilts the axis of their work sphere with their innovative contributions.

The book The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel has been a monumental encyclopedic work in its own frame. The author has sincerely articulated events in the life of this great man with meticulous perfection. Based on extensive research work conducted by the author with lively enthusiasm the life of Srinivas Ramanujan- an idyllic Tamil Brahman who’s every breath knew numbers in close proximity than any other normal social acquaintance that he possessed- has been presented with comprehensive compassion.

The life of a genius of such proportion is always a captivating subject to study. However portraying the life of a mathematician on celluloid is often lurid and boring as mathematics as a subject to depict on screen is quite abstract and is very non relatable with the audience. While on the other hand mathematics is such an integral part of Ramanujan’s life that any film without exhibiting a substantial portion of mathematical rigor will be thoroughly incomplete.

The attempt to make such a film is indeed a brave attempt and at the same time a bit tricky. The task thus at hand in the hands of director Matt brown was monumental in its nature of complexity and abstraction. It also required years of painstaking labor and intense research work and more importantly assimilating useful material from a consortium of data collected over an epoch of time. What was most remarkable about the film was the sincerity that was evident from the outset to showcase the mammoth ability of a person with restrain, dignity keeping intact the values and sensibilities possessed by this genius which bore figments of his oriental beliefs, superstitions, intuition and isolation.

This film is however not without flaws. It is a humongous job to portray the life and incidents of such a great man in a film within a close breadth of two hours. It often requires extensive editing thereby in some cases subtracting major incidents from the life of this person. As long as incidents are taken in proper stride and omission or editing doesn’t impede the understanding of the life and philosophy of a person omissions are okay. However often cuts are made in a manner that it obstructs the understanding of a character and its different facets and gives us an incomplete perspective of the person that touches the body but not the soul of the character involved.

In this film the entire childhood of Ramanujan has been omitted and the saga starts from his youth after marriage and his constant search for a suitable mentor who will be able to appreciate and most importantly publish his original work. The entire subtraction of his childhood has in this case impeded understanding the almost obsessive life of a troubled kid who miserably failed in all subjects apart from mathematics and was socially awkward in a perceivable manner resorting to mathematics for love, friendship, alienation and isolation.
Discussion regarding separate attributes of the film and its making will help us to comprehend the overall aesthetics of the film.

The crux of the film rests on two principal actors Jeremy Irons in the role of the legendary mathematician Thomas Hardy and Dev Patel. While Irons in the role of the iconic, dedicated teacher and academician has almost carved Harvey in flesh and blood. Dev Patel has managed to remain as sincere as possible in personification of the enigmatic mathematician. He has been able to capture the earnestness, sincerity, sacrifice and most importantly his helpless and almost manic need to get his work known to the people who reside on intellectual ivory towers and create the superpower of knowledge and subsequently change the world.

The film is mainly based on the relationship of a mentor and a student who emerged as lifelong friends and history has acclaimed this association as one of the most celebrated collaborations of all time. Hardy at the receding years of his life had commented that in his long insignificant life his only contribution of substance was the discovery of Rmaanujan and his brief but life altering collaboration with the genius that led to the exploring of several unknown alleys and avenues of mathematics. One such exploration regarding partition functions have been highlighted in the film in a reasonably unambiguous fashion.

The alliance between these two legendary minds and their individual trials and tribulations towards attaining greatness has been shown with poise and sincerity. The confluence has been shown however with a bias towards Hardy who was portrayed as an overbearing father figure who showered generosity and the burst of light that guided Ramanujan through darkness of accelerating difficulty, carving the uncut diamond into one of the best minds of all time whose shine and brilliance created a new galaxy in the scientific Milky Way.

The entire film though primarily reflects the association of two characters portrayed by Patel and Irons but in order to facilitate the drama several key actors have been included. The characters that stand up primarily is Devika Bhise as the loving yet alienated and wounded wife who was craving for attention and quivered for love of her husband who was not only geographically separated but also most of the times dwelled in an altogether different dimension mentally. Devika with her expressions and deep truthful eyes have portrayed the role of the better half of Ramanujan with both sincerity and devotion.

Some other notable side characters that added a significant adage to the script were characters of John Littlewood the other competitive professors the character of Bertrand Russell and mother of Ramanujan whose individual contributions in making the script believable had credence to the brevity and comprehension to the pace of the movie.

The movie in his entirety as successfully been able to portray the life of a mathematical genius with a touch of sincerity earnestness and rigor. However the picture was drawn form an English perspective highlighting the help rendered by the British and to some extent dwarfing the ability of such a monumental genius whose talent was singularly important for transforming the landscape of modern day Mathematics.

Rating: 3/5



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