ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
Devika Bhise, Indian American Hollywood actress is part of the opening film of the 46th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Titled ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ the film is a biopic based on Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Devika plays the role of Janaki, Ramanujan’s wife.
‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ premiered at various prestigious Film Festivals like the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and the Zurich Film Festival. At the last it was the opening film.
Devika, daughter of Bharatnatyam dancer Swati Bhise says that getting into the skin of this South Indian character came quite easily to her owing to her background in Bharatnatyam. “I began learning Indian classical dance when I was just five-year-old. This helped me in preparing for the role of Janaki, a character who hails from Tamil Nadu, the place where this dance is geographically located,” says Devika, who was talking to us at her residence in Dona Paula.
Devika while speaking about the diction used in the movie says that they have followed a generic dialect in the movie as opposed to the South Indian dialect. Also, this movie is in English, and, for a fact, Janaki never spoke English in real life.
Devika further says that she took utmost care in presenting herself as it is a period drama. “I wore nine-yard saris for this role. As it was a period film I gave attention to the way I walked, sat or even held something. But, it was encompassing with that culture,” says Devika. She is paired opposite Dev Patel, who is portraying the role of Ramanujan.
When asked about acting with Dev Patel she says: “It was fun working with him and I don’t get star-struck.” Unlike Ramanujan there is not much research done on the life of Janaki, who according to Devika was the pillar of strength behind Ramanujan and his success story. Devika did meet the author of the book Robert Kanigel on whose book ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ the movie is based. “Robert had met Janaki when she was very old. I interacted with him to learn more about the character,” says Devika.
Speaking about the sacrifices Janaki made, Devika says: “Janaki had amazing strength. She didn’t understand mathematics, but she realised the passion her husband had for the subject. She also encouraged him to take his career forward. She gave up many things for Ramanujan. She knew in a way that she had to live without her husband and not have children. It was a hard decision in those days (early 20th Century). Don’t forget it was a matriarchal society,” says Devika.
She further mentions that not much is known about the philanthropic work Janaki did in her lifetime. “She adopted children who didn’t have an education. She even started a trust in her husband’s name as she always believed that education was extremely important,” says Devika.
Devika, who is born and brought up in the USA, says that she is more comfortable working in Hollywood than Bollywood. But never say never. “If I get a better role then I would definitely like to do it,” says Devika, who further adds that she didn’t find that Hollywood typecast Indian origin actors, and Priyanka Chopra acting in the television series ‘Quatrio’ has further disclaimed this concept of typecasting.
While speaking about IFFI 2015 she says she is quite excited as a movie like ‘The Man who knew Infinity’ has been selected as the opening film of the 46th IFFI. “The movie tells an important and true story. I think it is a very good choice as an opening film. This is my first time at IFFI, so I am not expecting much. But, I heard that it is an excellent festival,” says Devika.
Devika has also signed her next Hollywood film ‘Shambhala’ opposite Mission Impossible-III star Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The film tells the story of a lone plane crash survivor who has to come to terms with a past he can’t remember, in a foreign land. Devika plays Tamara, a woman Rhys Meyers encounters along his journey.
“This role is completely different from the role of Janaki. I am playing a college going girl who is smart, precocious and creative, and in search of answers,” says Devika.