India is crazy with population: 1.2 billion people or so. Why, then, does Hollywood think a man born in London is the only one for hire? Nothing against Dev Patel, but he can’t be the only brown person around. On the other hand, I hate to take work away from him because of course he’s only allowed to play Indian dudes, despite being British. Rant aside, I only half-enjoyed this movie, despite being originally pleased to find it on Netflix.
Dev plays Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor, uneducated man in India who happens to be a math prodigy. Of course, India rejects him because he’s from the wrong caste, and he has no degree and he looks like he sleeps in the street (to be fair, he does). So he writes a ballsy note to professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Hardy’s just intrigued enough to send for him. It’s 1912 though, so Cambridge is not super friendly to brown-skinned people. And Cambridge is really unfriendly to self-taught brown people who think they’re better than them. So everyone hates on him and even Hardy stifles him. Ramanujan is just vomiting brilliance everywhere and no one wants to accept it.
Patel and Irons are great. You can’t knock the acting. But math is boring and this biopic is conventional as hell. Ramanujan was a real man who overcame real adversity and left behind a legacy only now begun to be understood. I don’t think the film needed to add a further layer of intrigue that involved him not being allowed to walk on the grass. I felt like he wasn’t served well by this documentary – not his life, not his work, not his memory. And that’s really too bad.