Written by: Matt Brown, Robert Kanigel (Book).
Directed by: Matt Brown
Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones.
Run Time: 108 Minutes.
Check out our The Man Who Knew Infinity Review!
A dramatic take on the ephemeral life of Srinivasa Ramanujan – the mathematic genius from India in the early 20th century.
SIMPLIFYING THE EQUATION
Srinivasa Ramanujan’s life was an immeasurably luminous candle in the mathematical world – full of brightness and short-lived. Therefore, it strikes as ironical that the story of a life so short needs to be told with so much detail. The Man Who Knew Infinity opens with Ramanujan (Dev Patel) & his mighty brain struggling with poverty, trying to find a place in the pre-WWI commonwealth city of Madras. We are provided with scenes of his uncontrolled brilliance, as he finds patterns in the most natural of things. He channels this by scribbling on the temple floors, as paper is a rare commodity in the era. He soon finds a position in an accounting firm as a clerk, and math-lover civil engineer Sir Francis Spring (Stephen Fry) decides to help Ramanujan by sending his work to Cambridge.
Upon receiving letters claiming that a clerk from rural India could give meaning to the negative values of the Gamma function, Professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) invites Ramanujan to England. Ramanujan realizes that his work cannot just die with him in India, and takes the rather painful decision of leaving his wife Janaki (Devika Bhise) and mother behind in Madras to take his numbers to England. As is expected of the timeline, Ramanujan is greeted with cartoonish racism and astounded scoffs at his self-taught status – not to mention a lack of herbivorous nutriment.
What Ramanujan does not comprehend is the dogmatic approach to provide proofs for all his ‘instinct’. He claims that these visions are fed to him by god and that does not get acknowledged by atheist Prof. Hardy. Hardy makes Ramanujan toil through a rudimental approach towards the system. He finds unlikely allies too – namely Prof. Littlewood (Toby Jones) and Bertrand Russell (Jeremy Northam). The equation was simple – Ramanujans natural ingenuity coupled with Hardy’s dedication, The film travels through episodic intervals highlighting the unforeseen bond between Hardy and Ramanujan, as he realizes that his long distance marriage isn’t the only thing he has to battle to keep alive.
Numbers aren’t easily accepted in society, especially in the world of cinema. Director Matt Brown (Ropewalk) seemed all too concerned about this notion. What he delivers is a film which tackles Ramanujan’s life from an emotional outlook, rather than a mathematical one. This was probably done keeping in mind the majority of viewers who tend to get bored if there isn’t a joke or explosion in the plot every 5 minutes. That being said, it’s not an easy task summarizing a life of such importance. Brown manages to showcase history very well, what with the WWI-stricken Cambridge backdrop and all. But the display of Ramanujan’s intellect, or lack of, could prove to be a major setback.
The cinematography by Larry Smith and editing by JC Bond are both inconsistent to say the least. The music could have served as a major difference but it was uninspiring work by Coby Brown. What stands out most unconstructively is the costume design. The suits and robes were too sartorially misplaced as far as the timeline is concerned. On the plus side, the chemistry between the characters is shown in great taste.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
The tall and lanky Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, Chappie) is a confusing choice to play Ramanujan – who was quite the opposite in physical appearance, among other aspects. But playing a smart mind thrust into an intricate setting has become Patel’s Modus Operandi now. Math-lovers who know all too well about how unemotional Ramanujan was, will find it hard to digest Patel’s performance. But from an individual perspective, Patel has done a decent job in delivering exactly what was expected from the script, and nothing more.
The one who truly brings this movie to life is Jeremy Irons (Die Hard: With A Vengeance, The Man In The Iron Mask). Maybe we are in for a late-career flurry of marvelous roles from Irons, but he definitely rises to the occasion on this one. Bringing out the eccentric defense in the role, he was a perfect choice to play the atheist Prof. Hardy. A specific scene where he pleads Ramanujan’s appeal for Royal Fellowship stands out. Toby Jones (Captain America, The Hunger Games) does a delightful job as Littlewood. Other notable performances include debutant Devika Bhise, who plays the wife Janaki, and a welcoming cameo by Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta, Alice In Wonderland).
ALL IN ALL
The Man Who Knew Infinity is an absorbing tale of a genius who was plagued with misfortune. It will leave you wondering what Ramanujan could have truly achieved had he lived longer. The film does well in acknowledging that. One can easily find themselves feeling for the characters. But movie-goers and math lovers alike, who expect a detailed work on Ramanujan’s life will find more solace in other documentaries or the book with the same title by Robert Kanigel.
Watch it if you’re: An admirer of Ramanujan/Mathematics OR a fan of the biopic genre.