British actor Dev Patel tackles numbers and formulas in ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ – a biopic directed by Matt Brown, which examines at the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.
The drama follows the journey of the Indian accounting clerk, who was brought to England before World War One by Cambridge University professor Godfrey Harold Hardy (Jeremy Irons), as he seeks to prove himself and his theorems.
Patel, who received high acclaim after his debut in Danny Boyle’s hit ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ says: “I wanted to do the role because it is rare for an actor who looks like I do to come across something that is so meaty, and I knew the film would attract stellar artists who I’d get to act opposite.
“It’s daunting but actually when you read the script, it was a very emotional read …it was actually a very triumphant story for me, a very enlightening film and I wanted more people to know about it, because I didn’t know about this incredible man,” he said.
“When a film does not rely on CGI or special effects, it’s performance driven and I thought a story about two humans with drastically different ideals would be an amazing journey to go on and it turned out to be just that,” he adds.
Patel, chuckles that he’s “terrible” at maths and said the role was both challenging and emotional. He admitted to practising speed- writing complicated equations obsessively with the help of a friend during the evenings.
The 25-year old, also known for and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, said he was able to base his portrayal on photographs of the mathematician studying Ramanujan’s notebooks.
“There was no real physical material that we could mimic, there was no found footage or anything of how he spoke. You know, the cliche is a picture says a thousand words, but it really is true,” he said.
“We tried to capture the essence of this man and his resilience that you could see in the pictures, you could read in the book. He’s fiercely passionate and that’s something I could really dial into.”
“If I could help breathe life into his legacy, then I was happy to do so and that’s what we did.”
The Man Who Knew Infinity releases on 8th April and also stars British actor Toby Jones and writer and comedian Stephen Fry.
About Srinivasa Ramanujan (22 Dec 1887 – 26 April 1920)
Srinivasa Ramanujan was an self-taught mathematical prodigy with almost no formal training in pure mathematics, made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions.
Living in India with no access to the larger mathematical community, which was centered in Europe at the time, Ramanujan developed his own mathematical research in isolation.
As a result, he rediscovered known theorems in addition to producing new work. Ramanujan was said to be a natural genius by the English mathematician G. H. Hardy, in the same league as mathematicians such as Euler and Gauss.
During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3900 results (mostly identities and equations). Nearly all his claims have now been proven correct, although a small number of these results were actually false and some were already known.