This is summer vacation time for kids in India. Production houses tend to populate screens with animated films and what are labelled as“children-friendly’ films- though the definition of whats child friendly is left for the parent to decide.
But if your child is 8+, then the movie you, must take your child to is “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”
The biggest advantage that any biography has is that theres a good story to be told. Especially this one, that involves the young genius Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, considered by many as one of the greatest mathematicians of all times and certainly India’s greatest in centuries.
The story narrates Ramanujan’s (Dev Patel) life from his humble beginnings with no formal education to a clerk working for Sir Francis Spring (Stephen Fry) before eventually leaving his wife Janaki (Devika Bhise) and country behind and embarking to Cambridge after being invited by professor GH Hardy (a brilliant performance by Jeremy Irons) who was fascinated by Ramanujan’s abilities.
The movie opens with an honest portrayal of an orthodox south Indian family, where the mother thinks about food that Ramanujan will eat at Cambridge as “poison”.
In a scene that speaks a million words, the young wife Janaki, hesitates before cutting the holy thread that Ramanujan wears (the janeu). Going across the seven seas, is to be lost to your own family and country; is the message given by the initial scenes.
At various levels, “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” is a love story. Ramanujan’s love for math and for his wife and for his God, all in equal measure.
Jeremy irons plays a hardened atheist, who is transformed by Ramanujan’s genius and vulnerability, into a sensitive friend.This emotional transition, shown ever so subtly, is one of the high points of the movie. It is well known of course that Hardy, on pure mathematical genius, gave himself a score of 25, Littlewood 30, Hilbert 80 and Ramanujan 100.
Ramanujan’s inability to acclimatise to a new environment, and his rigid ways, leave him with malnutrition, and eventually tuberculosis. The world war is a visible influence that meanders through the movie, adding enough meaning, but not overpowering the storyline.
The movie completes all three love stories- Ramanujan’s complex mathematical theorems that came to him from his love for God, and his immense love for his wife.
The scene depicting Janaki’s anguish that her mother in law never posted her letters to Ramanujan, afraid that if she went away, Ramanujan would have no reason to return to the country; is eminently believable.
Ramanujan succumbed to ill health at the age of 32, but not before spending a year with his wife, back in India.
There are many stories in India, waiting to be told, by Indians. If only we could leave item numbers and super stars aside.
Categories: Is the movie worth your buck?