Based on the book of the same name, The Man Who Knew Infinity follows Srinivasa Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, as he begins a new journey at Trinity University. Ramanujan has come a long way from his home of Madras, India, to study math under the guidance of G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). The unusual pairing leads to an inevitable clash of personalities. Ramanujan is young and idealistic. He views math in a transcendent, religious light. Director Matt Brown explains his character by saying Ramanujan is a mathematician who believes “an equation has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God and gives up everything and risks everything to go and try to be understood all the way to Cambridge at the height of Empire.” Ramanujan’s mentor Hardy, meanwhile, is already a seasoned fellow at Trinity, and is a “completely emotionally unavailable person who also happens to be an atheist.” For Brown, “these two such different characters having to come together in those times” was something he thought was worth delving into.

Today, the relationship between India and Britain is very different. Devika Bhise, who plays Ramanujan’s wife, Janaki, told The Politic that, due to the hundreds of years of colonial rule, India and Britain are still intrinsically linked. “But it’s funny how the roles are almost reversed,” she says. “There are parts of London where you walk around and there are more Indian people than English people.”

Even the production of the movie demonstrated how far India and Britain have come. “This was the very first film to be allowed to shoot at Trinity College,” explained Brown, “and that’s a credit to the story and to Trinity coming such a long way and wanting to tell the story and how much it mattered to them.”

The college’s attitude today is a far cry from what it was during Ramanujan’s time. The fact that foreign students, such as Ramanujan, were allowed to remain at Trinity College while everyone else was off fighting World War I engendered a great deal of resentment. And the fact that Ramanujan had been invited by Hardy, a well-established fellow, was not enough to exempt him from discrimination. “Class issues just existed naturally at the University at the time,” says Brown. But while that may have been the case, Ramanujan likely suffered double from citizens who resented Ramanujan and hated the thought of an Indian in safe quarters in their home at Trinity College while they were off risking their lives at war.

Despite the strained relations between the Indians and British depicted in the film, Brown has been met with warm reception based on his depiction. Before a screening at the British Royal Society, Brown was nervous that the way the Britons were portrayed would not be well received. But even the president of the Royal Society (who is in fact, Indian) very much enjoyed the film. “He loved it because… it shows how far this has all come.”

While the relationship between India and Britain has come a long way, racism is still prevalent. “Lots of progress has been made,” says Bhise, “but we still have a way to go.” Brown also became increasingly aware of the prejudices that still exist and how contemporaneous issues of race, class, and immigration are. Most of all, he told The Politic a movie like this “can help people pause and think about [prejudice] in a different way.”

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