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Dev Patel Unveils Srinivasa Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity

On Srinivasa Ramanujan’s birth anniversary, Dev Patel reveals the religious, yet radical side of the Indian prodigy

4 min read
Dev Patel Unveils Srinivasa Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity
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Dev Patel has been obsessed with the concept of infinity and the self taught Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, for some time now. The Slumdog Millionaire actor is playing the mathematical prodigy in Matthew Brown’s star studded biopic The Man Who Knew Infinity. He even describes his upcoming project as a ‘mathematical bromance’ and is quite blown away by the character he’s portraying.

The Man Who Knew Infinity premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year Patel admits that he wasn’t expecting their ‘small’ film to get all the attention and praise that it has been getting.

The film’s first look showcases an intense scene between Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel and to be honest, no one describes the man that Ramanujan really was, quite like Patel.

Dev Patel and Devika Bhise in a scene from The Man Who Knew Infinity (Photo: promotional still)

Matthew Brown’s star-studded biopic is based on Robert Kanigel’s book by the same name and is set in 1913. Patel thinks Ramanujan was quite radical for his time.

I like to describe the film as a mathematical bromance. The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on a true story about Srinivasan Ramanujan and is set in the 1900s. It’s about a young man who had no formal training of mathematics, who came from a tiny part of South India and was a self taught mathematician. He was brought over to Cambridge by mathematician GH Hardy and together they created some of the greatest formulas in the face of prejudice and adversity.
- Dev Patel, Actor (As reported by City TV)
The Man Who Knew Infinity is the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, the self taught Indian mathematical genius (Photo: Twitter/@arundharhoney
Ramanujan was the youngest Indian Fellow at Trinity college. He was a very religious man and he believed that all the mathematical equations came from god. Though he was in a science that needs proofs, he himself was very abstract. So a lot of people at the time didn’t undestand what he was doing, but GH Hardy did.
- Dev Patel

Here’s a piece of trivia. Ramanujan was also mentioned in a crucial scene from Good Will Hunting (1997).

During the film’s release at TIFF in September this year, Dev revealed a bit more about Ramanujan saying that for him, mathematics was like painting without numbers.

It’s a story of triumph. Perseverence was the most inspiring thing about him. He’s a legend, they call him an abstract artist because he called mathematics ‘painting without numbers’. Ramanujan was all about nature and infinity and he believed that there needs to be a number or an equation that represents the infinite aspect of our universe. So he was quite radical in a way for his time.
- Dev Patel 

Another interesting man involved in the making of this Ramanujan biopic is Ken Ono, a mathematician himself. Ono worked closely with the actors during the film and admits in this candid video that he had no idea how hard it is to make movies.

I had no idea how hard it is to make movies. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We had long conversations about what it would have been like to be a mathematician in the early 20th century. It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to be a mathematician to someone who isn’t a mathematician.
- Ken Ono, Mathematician

Ono talks about his favourite scene from the film and the challenges he faced as a mathematician working with actors for the first time ever.

Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons on the sets of The Man Who Knew Infinity (Photo:
My favourite scene in the film is when Dev Patel completes a very complicated formula on the blackboard, and you can see that he’s doing it in real time. My challenge was to select a formula that he could remember and deliver quickly.
- Ken Ono
Dev Patel on the sets of The Man Who Knew Infinity (Photo: Twitter/‏@NewsWorldEnt

Ono believes that his most important contribution to the content of the film is the answer to the question ‘what does it mean to say that Ramanujan was a man who knew infinity?’ Though he doesn’t reveal how that comes about, he does say that the answer lies in the film.

What we can all learn from this film is that greatness and talent are often found in unforgiving circumstances.
- Ken Ono

Dev Patel has proved his mettle in Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chappie and HBO’s hugely successful TV series The Newsroom. It looks like he won’t disappoint in The Man Who Knew Infinity.

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