LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION M6 THE MAGAZINE
India Abroad February 27, 2015
In Robert Kanigel’s international bestselling biography The Man Who Knew Infinity the story starts in 1913. A young educated clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the preeminent English mathematician’s opinion on several ideas he had about numbers and about math theories that had baffled some of the greatest mathematicians worldwide. Realizing the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most improbable
and productive collaborations ever chronicled.
Ramanujan’s creative intensity and passion for numbers took its toll
in the harsh English winters and he died at the age of 32, returning to
India with tuberculosis.
A big part of the tragic story is the role of his child bride Janaki, better known as Janakiammal, who saw him go to England from Madras
in 1914 five years after their wedding. She nursed him with devotion
and lived decades after death.
She lived under distressing poverty, getting a measly pension from the
government and supplementing her income by tailoring.
Devika Bhise plays Janakiammal in the film based on the book — The
Man Who Knew Infinity is now in post production — joining the
impressive cast of Dev Patel as the mathematical genius and Oscar winner Jeremy Irons as Hardy.
One might have seen Devika in small roles in a couple of mainstream
movies like The Accidental Husband, on television shows like Elementary
earlier this month or heard about her short documentary on eunuchs,
Hijras: The Third Gender, which has been shown at several film festivals.
But it is more likely that one has heard of Devika, the Bharata Natyam
artist. She is the daughter of danseuse Swati Bhise, and has been helping
her mother run Sanskriti, one of the most respected Indian dance schools
in North America.
The actress spoke to India Abroad through phone and e-mail.
How does a New York kid get to play a Tamil wife in a period film?
I was in a play titled The Partition, based on Kanigel’s book. I did not
play Janaki but the goddess who inspired Ramanujan. There is no goddess
in the movie version. But having played the role in the play produced in
Baltimore and encouraged by my acting teacher John Astin (from
The Addams Family) to be in that play, the audition for the
movie was a natural thing.
I also thought that having learned Bharata Natyam since
age four from my mother made me feel comfortable playing the character.
I have been also studying theater and doing research
Devika Bhise opens up about her big
break in the movies, The Man Who Knew
Infinity, with Arthur J Pais, who has
tracked her trajectory as an artist from
the time she was a teenager
COURTES Y: DEVIKA BHISE