Vidya Balan is all set to essay the role of 'human computer' Shakuntala Devi in her upcoming film, which is set to release on Amazon Prime Video on 31 July.
Shakuntala Devi earned the moniker ‘human computer’ for her impressive ability to memorise and compute numbers in record time, a talent that earned her a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records in 1982.
As we look forward to the film's release, let us take a look at some interesting facts about the genius lady:
No Formal Education
Born on November 4, 1939, Shakuntala Devi could not receive any formal education due to financial constraints. She was admitted to St Theresa's Convent in Chamarajpet (Bengaluru) in Class I, but had to drop out as her parents could not afford the monthly fee of Rs 2. When she was just six years old, Shakuntala displayed her arithmetic abilities at the University of Mysore.
The Math Genius
In 1977, at Southern Methodist University, Shakuntala Devi gave the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. Her answer—546,372,891—was confirmed by calculations done at the US Bureau of Standards by the UNIVAC 1101 computer, for which a special program had to be written to perform such a large calculation.
Shakuntala Devi Contested For Lok Sabha Elections
In 1980, Shakuntala Devi contested for the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from Mumbai-South. She also stood against then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from Medak. Devi had then said that she wanted to "defend the people of Medak from being fooled by Mrs Gandhi".
In 1977 Shakuntala Devi's book, The World Of Homosexuals, created quite a stir in India. Homosexuality was decriminalised in India in 2018 but before that it was scorned upon and every attempt was made to silence discussions around it. The book was not brushed aside, but it wasn't allowed to reach more people and take centre stage either.
The impetus to pen the book came from a personal space. Shakuntala Devi had married Kolkata-based IAS officer Paritosh Bannerji in 1960. However, the relationship fell apart when Bannerji opened up about being gay. This prompted Shakuntala Devi to delve deep into the ignorance and prejudice of the society towards homosexuals.
In her book, she challenged the flawed notion that homosexuality is immoral. She added that those who disrespect, discriminate and mock people on the basis of their sexual preferences should look within themselves.
Dislike Towards 'Human Computer' Title
In 1950, after Shakuntala Devi her talents in the BBC channel hosted by Leslie Mitchell, she was bestowed with the title Human Computer. However, the math wizard was never fond of it as she believed that the human mind is far superior to computers and it's unfair to compare the two.
In addition to her talent as a mental calculator, Shakuntala Devi was an astrologer and an author of quite a few cookbooks and novels.