Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) was an unparalleled mathematical genius from a humble background in Tamil Nadu, India. His story is common knowledge for all school students here. Whenever I come across it (as I did in the novel “The Steradian Trail” I read recently) I can’t help but feel sad for his untimely death at the age of 32. I spend the next few hours wondering about the great things he could have done had he lived a little longer, but that’s life & death – isn’t it?

A movie about Srinivasa Ramanujan was in the making for quite some time and I was looking forward to it. I booked for it in advance and went to see it on release today in Fame Cinemas, Chennai. The film “Ramanujan” was directed by Gnana Rajasekaran who is famous for his historic biographies including Bharathiyar & Periyar.

The film is a commendable attempt to make the present generation aware of Ramanujan and its a tribute in the 21st century to the great mathematician from his state. The castings of Suhasini Maniratnam as the scheming mother, Bhama as the young wife away from her husband, Kevin McGowan as G. H. Hardy were apt, but the lead role by Abhinay Vaddi (grandson of veteran Tamil film actors Gemini Ganesan and Savitri) could have been better. Abhinay tries his best but somehow he doesn’t fit the mental image I had of Ramanujan formed by seeing his pictures published in my school Textbooks (like on the Wikipedia page).

The film was long and in many places, my son who has an interest in biographies got bored and restless. The Director seems to be obsessed with historical accuracy that he has missed out on telling a compelling story, he has given us a History Channel Program product. I felt there could have been more Mathematical substance, after all a film about Ramanujan has to be about Maths too. The balance could have been struck on the lines of The Beautiful Mind played brilliantly by Russell Crowe. Though the visuals were nice, they gave us a stage theatre ambience rather than transporting us to the 1900s Chennai or London.

The screenplay was brilliant in the near climax scene, where Ramanujan talks to his wife about the poor plight misfits (and geniuses) face in India, the society around forcing from all angles to make him “common”.

Overall, a documentary on Ramanujan that can be watched as a tribute to the Mathematical Genius. I am off to search for my copy of “The Man who knew Infinity”.


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