Get ready to meet The Man Who Knew Infinity. This weekend, the film about East Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan hits theaters, delivering an honest look at world-renowned genius’s life. Dev Patel stars as Ramanujan, the man who left India for England in the early 20th century to study with professor G.H. Hardy (played by Jeremy Irons) at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. Devika Bhise plays Ramanujan’s wife, Janaki, in the film, and she gave us all the details about the biographical drama when she stopped by InStyle’s New York City offices earlier this week.
“My character is pretty much the only non-mathematical aspect of the film,” said Bhise. “Her husband has no formal education whatsoever, but he’s just this genius who sees mathematical equations.” It was taboo for Ramanujan to leave his family in India as he pursued his career—and it was especially hard on his wife. “A big part of the movie is that he leaves me to go to Cambridge to study with Hardy,” said Bhise. “But together they collaborated on equations that have changed the world of mathematics.”
Unfortunately for Bhise’s character, that meant a new way of life. “A wife being alone in India without a child or husband at that time was very tough,” she explained. “Not to mention, if you left India, you would break caste. So you’re basically excommunicating yourself, and it ended up being worth it for him because he made a name for himself. But his wife’s whole life changed, and she was worried that she and her children would be disgraced from the community when he left.” Understandably, it took a toll on Rananujan. “There was a lot of pressure to achieve great things in Cambridge, because the stakes were really high when he left India,” said Bhise.
As we now know, Ramanujan found success—and his work is honored with an accurate portrayal in the film, according to Bhise. “The really cool thing about this movie is that the mathematical community has embraced it so much,” she explained. “They’ve said that it’s the only movie about math that’s truly accurate. And it’s also the first movie to date that’s been allowed to film in Trinity College at Cambridge.”
Bhise's India-based role meant she didn’t spend much time exploring Cambridge, but she still managed to experience some excitement while on location in India. “Dev and I were doing a night shoot in an outdoor hut of sorts, and there were a ton of bats flying around,” she said. “We were staring at each other doing this scene, and all of a sudden a bat would zoom by and we would flinch. You can actually see them in the closeups during the scene in the film.”
Of course, you might not even notice the bats with everything else going on onscreen. “It’s such an emotional movie, and you really leave feeling moved,” said Bhise, adding that “it’s one of those movies where the story really stays with you.” For Bhise, it’s a particularly important story to tell. “As an Indian, I’m excited that there’s an Indian film that’s in mainstream cinema,” she said. “And especially one that’s a true story.”
Watch a trailer for The Man Who Knew Infinity below, and check out the film in theaters now.