New film portrays collaboration of Cambridge Maths giants Ramanujan and Hardy

Srinivasa Ramanujan (centre) and G. H. Hardy (far right) and other colleagues outside the Senate House, Cambridge
Srinivasa Ramanujan (centre) and G. H. Hardy (far right) and other colleagues outside the Senate House, Cambridge Image credit: Charles F. Wilson

A new biopic of the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan is set to be filmed in Cambridge next year. "The Man who Knew Infinity" will star Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" fame. Jeremy Irons will play his mentor, the Cambridge academic G. H. Hardy.

In 1887, Ramanujan was born the son of a Sari shop clerk in provincial Tamil Nadu. By 1918, he was the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College. This transformation began when Ramanujan sent three Cambridge academics an example of his work. Only Hardy looked beyond his lack of formal training, recognising his genius and inviting him to study at Cambridge. Hardy later described his discovery of Ramanujan as his greatest contribution to mathematics and their collaboration as ‘the one romantic incident in my life’.

Rishi Mouland, a First Year mathematician at St John’s, identifies Ramanujan as a hero and is excited about the films potential to popularise ‘Hardy's ability to view academic ability regardless of borders or cultural differences’.

At the same time, he comments that there is a risk the film might patronise Ramanujan. ‘It'll be interesting to see how Ramanujan, and especially his childhood, is presented. I can remember my Indian grandma always being so frustrated with the relentless portrayal of India's poverty in film, always seeming to overpower any other theme.’

The success of the film will rest on a complex portrayal of Hardy and Ramanujan’s relationship which goes further than the stereotypical kindly white man saving a poor Indian boy.

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