x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dev Patel to play Indian maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan on the big screen

Indian maths genius to get Beautiful Mind meets Good Will Hunting cinematic treatment with Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons.

Dev Patel has been tapped to play the Indian maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan in the film The Man Who Knew Infinity. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images/AFP
Dev Patel has been tapped to play the Indian maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan in the film The Man Who Knew Infinity. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images/AFP

The name Srinivasa Ramanujan might not be particularly renowned outside of India or mathematical circles, but this extraordinary individual, who died in 1920 at age 32, is soon going to be given a new lease of life on the big screen.

The Man Who Knew Infinity, to be directed by Matt Brown and based on Robert Kanigel’s biography, is a forthcoming drama starring Dev Patel as the Chennai-born maths genius and Jeremy Irons as G H Hardy, the Cambridge professor who would lure Ramanujan to the UK, where he would lay down some of his most groundbreaking research, much of which helped pave the way towards today’s digital era.

“It’s very much A Beautiful Mind meets Good Will Hunting – that sort of feel,” says the film’s executive producer Joe Thomas from the sidelines of last month’s Dubai International Film Festival.

Twenty per cent of the film is scheduled to be shot in Chennai, with the rest of production taking place in the UK, where Ramanujan would remain for five years until 1919, when he returned to India in ill health.

With Dev Patel in the lead, the film has got itself something of a rising star. In fact, with plans to shoot The Man Who Knew Infinity this year, the production team is having to work around a few projects that Patel is involved in: the filming of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2, the making of Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi project, Chappie, starring opposite Hugh Jackman, plus the next season of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom. But Thomas assures that there’s a window available, adding that there are other “significant” names to be added to the cast.

“There are also three or four other Cambridge professors who we’re looking for roles,” he says. “There’s also a sizeable female lead, as Ramanujan had an arranged marriage, so she should be from India.”

The work Ramanujan undertook with the Hardy in Cambridge would see him publish 21 papers, while also being elected to the London Mathematical Society and becoming a fellow of the Royal Society. Despite a relatively short life, Ramanujan left behind about 4,000 theorems and, despite his lack of formal education, he was hailed as one of mathematic’s all-time greats. Hardy himself compared the young Indian to the mathematicians Leonhard Euler and Carl Jacobi.

“Some of his equations were so profound,” says Thomas. But the stark difference between Ramanujan and his contemporaries at Cambridge was that he was deeply religious and relied very strongly on his own intuition rather than mathematical rigour. “He believed these equations came to him from a goddess.”

Speaking about The Man Who Knew Infinity in Dubai, claims Thomas, adds an interesting international feel to the film.

“Our producer Ed Pressman – a legendary producer who did Wall Street, Badlands and American Psycho – is American, as is Matt Brown and the other producers. But the story is English and Indian, and my company, Xeitgeist, is based in Singapore and Australia. And the investor that we found is in India, while it’s going to be filmed in India and the UK. In terms of filmmaking, I think it’s a perfect model.”


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