The Man Who Knew Infinity, which made a splash earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival and is now getting a wide release, tells the true story of the self-taught Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar and his famous collaboration with the British scholar G.H. Hardy. The film stars Dev Patel as Ramanujan and features up-and-coming actress Devika Bhise as his wife, Janaki, who struggles alongside (and sometimes against) her husband. DuJour spoke with Bhise about her long road to landing this role and what it is she’s looking for in her next part.
You’ve got a past with this story, right?
I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and my first year I was in this play called The Partition, which was based on the story of The Man Who Knew Infinity. The play was totally different than the book and the movie, though; it wasn’t as so close to reality. That was in 2010, and in 2014 I was contacted by the movie’s producers, who had heard about me through this play.
Did they offer you the role just like that?
It was a long process to audition, because they wanted to cast the role out of India and I’m this American girl from New York. Their casting director was based out of Bombay but the character was South Indian; a girl from Bombay wouldn’t have the accent or the stylized acting of the culture that they were trying to portray in this movie. I did a screen test and auditions and it was a long process, but the director told me that he wanted me to play the role. Still, you can’t really celebrate until the ink is dry on the contract—you never know, at any point the role could go away—but it was exciting, and when I did that play I had no idea that it would lead to this.
What made the role worth going through that process?
As an Indian, I love to see Indian stories coming into Hollywood in a non-stereotyped way. Also, Indians loved the movie and I think that’s really important. If you’re going to tell a story about this Indian hero, Indians have to think that it was done well and when we screened it in India they loved it so that made me really, really happy. And my character is so interesting, because when you have these stories about men, it’s very tough to make the women stand on their own. My character was uneducated, but we still wanted to make her smart, and I think it was important to show that you don’t have to be like a math genius to have intelligence.
What was the most memorable part of making this film?
Being in India making the movie! Being on set and doing it 20 hours a day, that is the dream. When you want to become an actor, that’s really what you sign up for is the actual acting of it.
Now that Infinity is out in the world, what’s next for you?
I’m making another film, and I play a character who is the opposite of the one I’ve been in Infinity, so I think that’s really good just to change it up a little bit. She is a college student who is smart, sexy and confident but she’s just questioning everything around her. It’s called Shambhala; I’m excited for that one.
Is there any kind of role you’re dying to play? Something you hope comes your way next?
I love playing evil characters. I think because I still look young on camera it would be a little tough, but I do love the villians—and I love action movies. Most actors want to do the really independent stuff about humans, but I think it would be cool to be a villain with superpowers and a lair.
Main photo by Guzman