Devika Bhise on Going to ‘Infinity’

Photo Source: Guzman

As the forlorn Janaki, wife of early-20th-century genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, Devika Bhise proves herself a formidable and fresh talent alongside Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons in the new biopic “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”

On ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity.’
“The story is a biopic about Ramanujan, a mathematician from the early 20th century. He was uneducated [and] illiterate, but somehow he could solve very, very complex mathematical equations. He ended up going to Cambridge to collaborate with G.H. Hardy, who was an extremely prominent mathematician at that time.”

On her history with Ramanujan.
“I went to Johns Hopkins [University] in Baltimore, and I was actually in this play my first year at Baltimore—not affiliated with Hopkins—called ‘Partition,’ by Ira Hauptman. It’s this play based on the book ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity.’ I played the goddess Namagiri. That’s the goddess Ramanujan believes feeds him equations. It was a great play and it was a great experience. When I did it I had no idea what it would lead to.”

On bringing India to Hollywood.
“I think [Ramanujan] is an important topic because it brings India and Indian culture to the forefront. We’ve had all these biopics about Stephen Hawking and ‘The Imitation Game,’ and I think it’s just going to be really great exposure for India.”

On playing different ethnicities.
“I love that I’m Indian, but I also love that I’m an American and that I can play a lot of characters. At the time that I got cast in this movie, I had only been getting cast in non-Indian roles, which I loved because I think if you’re an actress, the luckiest you can be is to be able to portray every kind of ethnicity. So I’m lucky that I can do that. But I also do really like portraying Indian characters. Earlier on, I would audition for these Indian roles, and then the feedback would come back that I was great, but that I didn’t look Indian enough for the character. And that bummed me out because I’m 100 percent Indian. I think it has to do a little bit with the stereotype that the industry has for what an Indian should look like. I do want to do Indian characters so that I can break those stereotypes.”

On making socially conscious work.
“That’s why I’m trying to produce more as well, and try to get my foot in that arena. When you get cast in things and you’re looking at the projects, yes, absolutely: I try to find interesting roles and interesting projects. But you don’t have as much of a choice with how important that project is to creating a conversation. That is a really big part of my life. I think one of the coolest things about being an actress is you don’t have to just act. You can connect it with a lot of things—if that’s creating, directing, producing, or trying to change something or create a conversation about topics that are important to you. For me, it is definitely important.”

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Benjamin Lindsay
Benjamin Lindsay is a senior editor at Backstage, where if you’re reading it in our weekly magazine, he’s written or edited it first. He’s also producer and host of our inaugural on-camera interview series, Backstage Live, taking informative deep-dives with actors across mediums to discuss their craft, their work, and their advice for others getting started in the field.
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