Film: “Ramanujan”; Cast: Abhinay Vaddi, Bhamaa, Suhasini Maniratnam, Nizhagal Ravi, Y. Gee Mahendran, Sarath Babu, Radha Ravi, Thalaivasal Vijay, Abbas; Director: Gnana Rajasekaran; Rating: ***
The story of “Ramanujan” can be found in almost every Indian household. It’s not the story of a genius, but one about how we treat a genius, how we want to change a genius into an ordinary man, how we expect a genius to be jack of all trades; master of none, how we want to prove that a genius is equivalent to being crazy and how we fail to celebrate a genius.
That Ramanujan is a mathematics wizard is a known fact, but did you know that he struggled to earn two square meals a day for many years in his life because he couldn’t earn a suitable job. But the problem was not with a suitable job, it was with those people who failed to understand him, his unmatchable intellect and talent.
The problem started from his family. All that his father wanted from Ramanujan was a college degree, a secure job that will relieve him off the responsibilities of a breadwinner for the family.
Not surprising. Because in the country, it’s often noticed that once a person turns 60, he wants to retire. Ramanujan’s father was no different. He least cared about his son’s outstanding talent with the numbers.
In the high school, Ramanujan was denied scholarship. He was told that the management is happy with mediocre students in all subjects, instead of a genius in one. He faces similar reaction from mostly everybody around him, except a few who truly treat Ramanujan as a genius.
These aforementioned moments from the initial years of Srinivasa Ramanujan make up for an inspiring story and provided if one knew how to package them. National award-winning filmmaker Gnana Rajasekaran certainly knows the art and succeeds narrating an inspiring tale, but his work doesn’t resonate deep within.
This is so because the director merely recreates several important episodes from Ramanujan’s life – from his school-going days to the minutes leading up to his death at 32 – on the screen while ignoring the need to build a screenplay to keep the viewers hooked. One tragic episode after another makes viewers feels sorry and miserable for Ramanujan.
The highlight of the film is that it has a talented debutant playing Ramanujan to the hilt. You could see Ramanujan in Abhinay, literally, and his portrayal of the genius is nearly flawless.
Suhasini Maniratnam as his over-protective mother, which she pulls off with aplomb, fittingly supports him. You can find shades of grey in Suhasini’s role and some sarcasm too, but she’s the way she is for a reason and when that’s finally revealed, you empathize for her. Other notable performances come from Nizhagal Ravi and Y.Gee Mahendran.
While efforts are taken to portray Ramanujan as a genius, who is rejected by the society, ther’s also a mention that he hallucinates regularly..
In an important scene, in Cambridge University, students of Professor Hardy, ask him why he helps Ramanujan who believes that god gives answers to his mathematical questions to him. To which, Hardy replies that it’s that belief that has kept the genius in him alive and therefore he doesn’t want to disturb it.
It’s a brilliant scene because beliefs are what we made of, and when that’s broken we become hollow inside.
Of the few things to like about “Ramanujan”, Ramesh Vinayakam’s music is life affirming. It is in sync with the era in which the film is set, oscillating between classical music and tunes of strings.
A refreshing bhajan by Vani Jayaram in the beginning is one of the best tracks of the album.
With tighter editing, “Ramanujan” would’ve been engaging despite its sluggish narrative.