Since Danny Boyle’s 2008 hit, Slumdog Millionaire, Indian culture has taken a front-row spot in Hollywood’s cinema screens, with films such as The Million Dollar Arm and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel springing to mind. It is safe to say that it is popular spot to set a film. Mixed with the ‘genius-biopic’ narrative, The Man Who Knew Infinity arrives. The genius in particular is Srinivasa Ramanujan Lyengar (portrayed by Dev Patel) – and the film details his origins in poor Madras (India) to his rise and discovery in Trinity College, Cambridge, through to his legacy now and being known as one of mathematics pioneers.
It’s a true story and takes place during World War I – therefore a visual time to film with and reflected throughout the film as a background story. Along with time period is also racial prejudice towards Ramanujan via immigration taking shape and probably jealously.
Set throughout the film is a flip of India, during the 1910’s – poverty stricken, hard-work and high expectations from their culture for not much return. Opposed by England war-period at Trinity College in Cambridge – with a whole new set of high expectations. King’s, Prime Ministers and Isaac Newton are among creditable former students – so sets the pressures throughout.
Whilst the story takes place around Ramanujan’s mathematic abilities – everything that we see on screen is only seen partially and goes over the head completely (unless you are a mathematic genius also). It is not explained and expects you to go with it and moderately agree… but the truth is the direction doesn’t care about the maths at all. More so the relationship between Ramanujan and GH Hardy (played by Jeremy Irons), his tutor that accepted his admittance from Indian.
Also starring Toby Jones, Stephen Fry and newcomer Devika Bhise, the film is on point and at just under two hours does not overstay its welcome – although certain scenes to drag. It fits in nicely with other recent period biopics, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, however, the quality is not so similar.