World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 1 of 8)

Co-Blogging Series- Anand Chandrasekharan and Lazy Geek

The best part of a blog is this: what can be is only a few paragraphs away from what is! The roots for this blog-series were formed during a conversation with Lazy Geek about how world themes will become an increasing part of and be a greater source for inspiration to Indian (and Tamil) cinema. What follows then, is a series of world themes that hopefully inspire Indian cinema.

The Man Who Saw Infinity

ramanujam - the man who saw infinity
Srinivas Ramanujan (1887–1920)

Some of the most memorable movies have been the story of an inspiring man or woman (Malcolm X, A Beautiful Mind, Schindler’s List). There has been some honest cinema made in India recently around the lives of the Poet Bharathi (where I loved Sayaji Shindey play Subramania Bharathi), Kamaraj and Bhagat Singh. Biopics are also my personal favourites: hence the first theme resonates around a life that has been fascinating, inspiring and mystic, all in the same vein – Srinivas Ramanujan.


Great art seems inspired by conflict. Ramanujan’s love-hate relationship with life and with mathematics should be interesting to capture and portray on celluloid.

Several incidents are memorable: when Ramanujan reportedly had an accident (some people say it was in England, in a conversation with the British mathematician GH Hardy) and someone asked him what the cab’s number was, he replied that he was not sure but knew that it was the smallest number that could be represented as the sum of cubes of two numbers, in two different ways (it was 1729).

His frayed notebooks are no boring story either. Desperate for money after being married off to an eight-year old girl, he started reusing his sheets and one would find two inks (red and blue) to trace his two separate trains of thoughts. Among other things – it had 2,000 of his own trigonometric theorems – with no proofs. Many were reinvented for his own use because he was not aware that others had proven them earlier. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and the Trinity College, the first Indian in both cases. Reputed as an astrologer and an orator as well. Succumbed to tubercolosis at the age of 32.

His son, the well-known poet and writer AK Ramanujan, probably summarized him best in his poem Astrologer:

Sky-man in a manhole
with astronomy for dream,
And astrology for nightmare;

The Indian Government seems to have done its bit to immortalize the life and times of this genius mathematician. There are two resources to follow up:

1. The Enigma of Srinivas Ramanujan (1987), a short film by the DST.
2. CDAC’s National Multimedia Resource center – Life & Works of Srinivas Ramanujan, the Mathematical Genius. The project presents the digitized biographical sketch of Ramanujan.

My take on this – Lazy Geek

The idea of this co-blogging is awe inspiring just like the theme itself. I did a similar kind of exercise, with Elango and Paddy, 6 months back. That idea called as Kathai Sollungal had a natural death after few months and some 25 posts. The reasons were varied and even now Paddy and Elango would be intrested to re-energise that idea. Check out Kathai Sollungal Blog here. However the theme for that was this : You too are a writer. Aren’t you?. Try your hand on this unique concept of group screen writing to open new horizons in Tamil Cinema.

With this new co-blogging series that consists of 8 posts, I am sure that Anand Chandrasekharan and myself will try to ignite the already subdued-yet-burning fire of meaningful Tamil-Indian cinema.

To believe you own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men-that is genius – Ralph Waldo Emerson (from A Beautiful Mind’s website)

Ramanujam as a movie would be welcome break for tamil cinema. Though I am clouded with the thoughts that such movies would be branded as documentaries a.k.a untouchables even before they are shot. Gnana Rajasekharan’s Bharathi broke this rule, however.

If I were borrow a sample from the hollywood(which we invariably do), Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind would suit this. Not becuase the subjects of these geniuses where the same but for the kind of promo and the cast they roped in for this. It has also one of the most innovatively designed website.

I am not sure how interested our commericial directors would be interested in this, but my preference would for Nasser types, who are ready to direct honest movies just because of their that passion drives them.

UPDATE: Post updated to reflect Viji’s comments. While this is not an investigative piece on AKR’s life (and light on research), it’s annoying nevertheless to read factually inaccurate content and we appreciate Viji’s initiative and getting AKR’s wife to chime in! – A

10 thoughts on “World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 1 of 8)

  1. OK guys sorry for beating this one to death. I went straight to the source AKR’s wife. Here is what she had to say:

  2. Viji, Thanks for the valid info. BTW just curious to know if the source(AKR’s Wife) had this said this on any website. Or was it by your personal interaction with her.

    If you can refer us there, it would be useful.

  3. I hope I did not sidetrack this with the AKR discussion . It would have been great if Ramanujan had such a talented poet for a son.

    I was in Kumbakonam because of the temples a year ago. No one knew where Ramanujan might have lived, not his school, nothing.

    But in case – if the movie is ever made – I can’t even begin to tell you what a great backdrop the temples around there would be.

    In particular I am think of Dharasuram and maybe
    GangaiKondaCholapuram.

  4. Opinionated bloggers are nothing if not for opinionated comments. keep ’em coming. (you’ve brought it back on track now with an evocative kumbakonam post! 🙂

  5. Viji, were you talking about trying to find out where Srinivasa Ramanujam lived in Kumbakonam? Hmmm, I thought there is a memorial there now. In fact, my alma mater (Nilu, don’t laugh), Shanmugha College of Engg in Thanjavur has set up an institute in his name in Kumbakonam and this institute was i think inagurated a year or two ago by our Prez. I found these pics of Pres. Kalam visiting Srinivasa Ramanujam’s home/memorial/museum on the college’s website.

    http://www.sastra.edu/tour/phototour.htm

  6. Guys
    Currently there is play called ‘The Partitions’
    runs in Berkely based on the book ‘The man who saw infinity’, Lifestory of Ramanujam
    Prof. Krishnaswami Alladi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Florida has written a review about this play in The Hindu
    here is the link
    http://www.thehindu.com/2003/05/26/stories/2003052604331200.htm
    hopefully someone in hollywood or indian cinema will do justice hope so.

  7. Ganesh – thanks for the link… this play is surely an excellent adaptation. The “goddess of namakkal” is a master stroke. Hope to see it at some point. Viji, does that seem to resonate with your point about the temples?

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