For some, even the talk of math inspires a mind freeze. The actor Dev Patel who plays a real life math genius from Madras claimed to be one of those last night at the premiere of his new movie, The Man Who Knew Infinity. As Srinivasa Ramanujan, his emphasis was the relationship, not the one with the lovely Devika Bhise who plays his wife Janaki, also attending the special night at Elyx House, but with G. H. Hardy, a perfect and prim Jeremy Irons in the role. Amazed by his facility with figures, Hardy invited Ramanujan to Cambridge, England where he faced racism, cold, and culture shock, and still managed to move mathematics forward much the way Sir Isaac Newton advanced the laws of physics, finding a formula for partitions that others thought was impossible. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.
Director Mira Nair, whose next film, Queen of Katwe, about a spunky girl from the streets of Uganda who becomes a chess champion, will premiere at the coming Toronto Film Festival in the fall, confirmed Ramanujan was a big deal in her home country of India, taught at schools, and considered a national treasure. Gay Talese, Richard and Lisa Perry, Lauren Hutton, Simon Curtis, Pat Birch, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Griffin Dunne were among the many guests, as was Cindy Lawrence, executive director of the National Museum of Mathematics, which just happens to have a back door facing the Museum of Sex. Inviting us to come and ride on a square wheeled bicycle, she admitted that she doesn't do math either.
Producer Ed Pressman introduced everyone to Matt Brown, who wrote and directed this film, beautifully shot by longtime Kubrick collaborator Larry Smith. As Jeremy Irons said to this crowd, "When you find a man who has a passion, hang onto him because you know it's going to be an interesting ride."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.