A prodigious Indian mathematician has to overcome poverty and prejudices and make a mark with the help of his British mentor.
In the opening minutes of
, we see the young Ramanujan posing a trick question to his mathematics teacher in school and embarrassing him. We then see him teach a thing or two about mathematics to a couple of priests in the temple, trigonometry to the college students staying in his house and helping out with the seemingly complicated time table of his school. With these few scenes, Gnana Rajasekaran spells out the genius of Ramanjuan (Abhinay) and the film from thereon, essentially resembles a journey the great man has to take towards the acknowledgement of his genius. This journey is predominantly marked by the three relationships that he forms — with his pushy mother Komalathammal (Suhasini), his diminutive wife Janaki (Bhama) and the man who will be instrumental in the world coming to know of his prodigious talent, mathematician GH Hardy (McGowan).
Gnana Rajasekaran is no stranger to biopics, having made
earlier but unlike those two personalities, whose firebrand nature and zeal for their ideals can easily be conveyed on film, his protagonist here is a tricky one. Ramanujan is super-intelligent but how do you showcase intelligence on screen? Then, there is his shy persona. This is a man who is an academic through and through, content to lose himself in mathematics and forget the people around him. He is also a weakling physically, prone to sickness.
What the director does is give us scenes where other characters mostly remark on the brilliance of Ramanujan, while using the character himself to spell out his insecurities and failings. Unfortunately, what looks like a good decision on paper, feels dramatically less interesting on screen. While repeated scenes of characters praising Ramanujan seems redundant, the character starts to feel like a cry baby every time he breaks down and voices his fears — of not securing a scholarship, of his work not being recognized, of his separation from his wife and of his impending death.
For a film that is about a man with astounding talent, the filmmaking is largely unimaginative. The staging is somewhat old-fashioned (read dated), the pacing staid and the film often slips into the kind of melodrama that you nowadays find in TV serials. This is most pronounced towards the climax — in the scenes that follow Ramanujan's return from the UK. That said, there is a certain doggedness in the manner in which Rajasekaran narrates this story and that keeps you engaged. There is an in-built drama in the life of Ramanujan — a mathematician whose genius isn't celebrated in his own country but is looked at in awe abroad; a system that forces him to lead an impoverished life despite the goodwill of some individuals around him; the recognition finally coming to him only when he steps out of his county, and finally, fate dealing a cruel hand just when everything seems to be coming together in his life — and the director does a competent job of conveying this to us, even if it is in a heavy-handed manner most of the times. Strangely, the political turmoil of the time isn't felt at all (the sole exception is a scene in which Ramanujan talks about satyagraha but that has an entirely different context) and the irony in this tale — the British actually doing something meaningful to an Indian — doesn't come through; it would have given the film quite some heft.
The cast includes a number of very familiar character actors in Tamil cinema but their roles are all strictly functional that they don't have much room to make them truly stand out. The same goes for Abhinay, who is earnest but is let down by the writing. Suhasini as Komalathammal is definitely intelligent casting and the actress brings out the grey shades of the character very well. But the English actors come across as wooden, and the Tamil dubbing of their lines in an anglicized accent, only makes it worse.