What happens when your calling vocation is so strong that you love it more than reality itself? This is the question that ��The Man Who Knew Infinity�۪ seeks to answer. Starring strong leads Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, this film promised to be a biopic to remember. It was being portrayed as being inspirational as well as reminding the audience that greatness comes with a cost. Patel has become a household name with a string of films which have endeared the audience to his acting style while Jeremy Irons is a British institution with his acting gravitas preceding him, so this film�۪s casting is a real meeting of the old and new. The film promised to be very British in feel, with scenes of Cambridge University prevalent in the trailers and a British supporting cast with Stephen Fry, Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam and many more.
The film begins in Madras in India where Srinavasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) is 25 years old and living in a strict Brahmin society. Despite being brilliant at Maths, he is struggling to find a job as the British Raj means that the more educated positions have been taken by the Brits. As a result, his wife (Devika Bhise) is living away from home with his mother while he desperately tries to get hired. He spends his free time at the local temple writing mathematical equations in the alcoves which seem to come to him, despite him never been educated. He finally gets a job as a shipping clerk where under his supervisor�۪s guardianship Ana, Srinavasa is encouraged to look outside of India and find someone who shares his passion for mathematical theories so he can gain recognition for his work. He writes to Professor Hardy (Jeremy Irons) who immediately recognises Srinavasa�۪s natural talents and immediately sends for him to come to Trinity College, Cambridge and work with him.
However, on arrival at Cambridge, Srinivasa struggles to fit in – the dining hall is short on vegetarian options and professors are so intimidated by his self-taught mathematical talent that they keep telling him off. Srinivasa also quickly realises that it won�۪t be as easy as it seems to get his work published with Hardy pushing him to tone down his creativity and conform to British formality where all his work has to have proofs. Hardy recognises and admires Srinivasa�۪s talents but wants him to adopt more discipline towards his work so that his mathematical findings can hold up against scrutiny.
The friction between Srinivasa and Hardy�۪s characters shape much of the film�۪s story and they are a real pleasure to watch on screen. Their clash in characters is not just a matter of wills and stubbornness but also their ideological stances. Srinivasa believes that the mathematical theories come to him from God when he sleeps or prays which Hardy finds hard to have faith in as an atheist. Hardy has been driven throughout his life by rational thought and he believes in Srinivasa�۪s talents as a mathematician but cannot believe in a higher being. It is touching to see the pair eventually become friends and how they both learn something from each other.
Patel is great as Srinivas Ramanujan and there is great earnest show in his acting, trying to convey this obsessive and self-driven character. His youthfulness reminds the audience of his previous roles in ��Slumdog Millionaire�۪ (2008) and ��The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel�۪ (2011) and he is just as endearing in this film too and he relates to the audience well. Irons shows his acting experience as the stubborn and blunt Hardy who eventually becomes dedicated to his young apprentice in Patel�۪s character. They both play incredibly well off each other and that is what is at the real heart of the film. The story is inspirational and there is no doubt about that, but the underlying themes of racism and war are subtly conveyed in the background, reminding the audience of the prejudices of society at the time.
��The Man Who Knew Infinity�۪ is a rewarding film to watch and you don�۪t have to be a mathematician to watch it. The concepts are conveyed to the audience in simple ways and the relationship between the main characters wins out overall.
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5