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?