Shakuntala Devi Trailer! Not a Hagiography, So I Actually Want to Watch This!

Thanks Kirre for posting the trailer in a comment! I probably wouldn’t have watched it otherwise, all the promotional materials up until now have made me not really interested in the film. But the trailer was different and GREAT!

Shakuntala Devi! She wasn’t exactly a mathematician, she didn’t do research or come up with anything original. But she saw numbers in a different way from other people, which let her be very fast and very good at adding them. I suppose if her life had gone a different way, she would have had the training to turn her vision into theorems and knowledge. That wouldn’t necessarily have been better, just different.

And, based on the trailer, this movie gets that!!!!! She liked the attention, she liked being centerstage, she liked showing off. This is the life she chose, to be the “Human Computer” and get international acclaim, to turn math into a contest. She wasn’t a perfect best in the world person, this isn’t an instance of Indian exceptionalism, this is someone who was very good at one thing I went after the fame that came with it.

I just looked up the “real” Shakuntala and here are two super interesting things that the trailer hints at and then dodges away from. First, her father was a circus performer. The whole showmanship and public appearances and Dazzling the Audience style she used, that’s what she was doing since she was a little kid. This isn’t a math genius who was discovered and made a star, this is the child of a performer who took a while to find the thing she could do as part of the “act” and then got very good at it.

Second, her husband was gay and she wrote a pioneering book on gayness in India, calling for acceptance. The movie shows her as a single mother and implies that she left her husband behind because she didn’t want him. That alone is interesting, but I hope the film digs more into the problems in their marriage from his homosexuality, and how she reacted to it with love and understanding.

Okay, that’s all I got! What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Shakuntala Devi Trailer! Not a Hagiography, So I Actually Want to Watch This!

  1. I like the fact there is an estranged mother daughter relationship in this. Vidya’s character at one point even seems like she’s resents her daughter and perfers maths over her. Its high time bollywood normalises the fact that not every woman wants a child. Everyone wants something different in life.

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    • And the flip side, a daughter who resents her mother’s control over her life and has a complicated relationship to her, not just perfect hearts and flowers.

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  2. OMG that looks amazing! Two of my favorite actresses plus a great story that will play out well on film. I love how they illustrate her math feats. This is exactly what we need in #TheseTryingTimes

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    • And Amit Sadh! I’m still trying to sell him to people!

      But yes, I am so pleased. I was expecting something dreadful like Padman, that was all Great Woman kind of thing. But instead it looks like a Talented and Ultimately Good But Still Flawed and Human Woman kind of thing. Those are the best kinds of things. Perhaps the tagline should be “Postcards From the Edge-But With Math”

      On Wed, Jul 15, 2020 at 9:20 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • And Sanya! If you don’t love Sanya Malhotra yet, you are missing out. She does fun interesting quirky roles onscreen, and then dance videos on youtube.

      On Wed, Jul 15, 2020 at 9:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I am glad you mentioned about her book on homosexuality. It is called The World of Homosexuals and is available for download if you run a google search. Most people are not aware about her writing this book and as you say hope the movie explores this aspect of her life.

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    • I hope so too! the fact that it is so carefully not included in the trailer gives me hope. We see that the marriage ends for reasons that are unclear, and maybe did not start on an even footing. There’s a gap there that her husband’s homosexuality would fit within.

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    • Yes! But then, I felt the same way with Dangal to Badhai Ho Sanya. Maybe she is someone who just looks really really different in every movie?

      On Wed, Jul 15, 2020 at 9:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. OH i cannot wait to send this to some people…though mostly for the wrong reasons as I want to see their reactions to not seeing a “perfect” desi character onscreen (see: SLB movies, the latest biographies etc. etc.) Yesssssss.

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    • YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!! She’s not good, she’s not bad, she’s a human person. How about that! A biography in which the person is treated as a person!!!!!

      Oh yuch, I suddenly just now remembered Sanju. Get it out of my mind! Get it out! I want to vomit!

      On Wed, Jul 15, 2020 at 10:37 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Very interested in seeing this and I might have missed it! I hope they touch on the homonsexuality in the film..Karan can’t do it alone,

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    • It’s kind of funny, the same actor who plays the husband in this played the husband in Manikarnika, which also hinted at homosexuality in the husband of a spectacular woman. It’s a really iddly specific typecasting for him! Kind of like how Preity always plays unwed mothers.

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  6. Correct me if I’m wrong but is this the woman who started delving into astrology and numerology? I remember ads from my childhood asking people to call her for help and how she will solve all your personal problems? She had gotten very kooky and involved in bizarre things like that. I hope I’m not mistaking her with someone else but I’m pretty sure that’s her.

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    • I’m honestly not sure. One of her books was about astrology, but I didn’t see anything more than that. Could be her, for sure. If it is, that is a fascinating route for her life to go.

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  7. Although I find it hard to judge biopics from trailer alone,Vidya Balan is an assurance enough that creative liberty will not be used as an excuse for unnecessary melodrama,or atleast not drag Shkuntala Devi in that.It seems like an okay biopic,but I would be glad if it tries less to be a glorification and be a more realistic depiction of how the circumstances around her shaped her.As a woman in 20th century who pursued a career unheard of by most people,I wish they show her struggles with nuance instead of dropping anvilicious morals at every step which distances the audience instead of involving them.

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    • So long as it is completely different from Mission Mangal, I will be happy.

      On Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 1:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. Is it sad that I kind of wanted a little more math? I don’t know much about Shakuntala to begin with, so I don’t know if her math expertise or showcase went beyond just calculating large numbers, which is definitely a feat. But it would be so awesome if she did stuff with insanely complex college level mathematics, or even the algebra that I teach my students.
    I’ll probably check it out. I liked the “filmi-ness” of it and it being applied to math. Just hope it doesn’t extend to the family stuff. Something about those scenes felt forced and too much drama. Sanya kind of just yelled the whole time.

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