Devi, a Mathematical wizard

Thursday 13th August 2020 03:12 EDT

Genre: Biographical Drama

Duration: 127 minutes

Shakuntala Devi was a maths wiz who people compared to a human computer due to her ability of having no limits.

The story centres around the wonderful life of Shakuntala Devi the maths genius from Bangalore, India who became world known for her abilities to be a human mental calculator.

The story is told through the eyes of her daughter Anu Banerji and talks about how she was an amazing mother as well as a tremendous woman. It shows her struggles through life as well as her ambitions and achievements. But being told through the eyes of her daughter comes with its traumas and it shows how Devi was pushed by her parents especially her father to achieve and was pulled out of school to do shows and become the primary money earner for the family.

The film brings to light that being good at one thing such as maths does not necessarily mean you are good in other aspects and this is where Devi struggled in relationships. The first half of the movie rushes through her childhood and her early life in Europe. She toured around the world including the USA and Europe and had her abilities studied by a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

But Devi was not just a math wizard she wrote books about maths and a book about homosexuals which is considered as the first work on this in India. This is highlighted in one of the pivotal scenes of the film, where Anu—played by Sanya Malhotra, is shown as confronting her mother because Shakuntala Devi uses her ex-husband to say that he was homosexual in order to promote her book on homosexuality, titled The World of Homosexuals. The segment chooses to focus on the troubled relationship of a mother with her daughter. The movie highlights the fact that Shakuntala Devi wrote a book on homosexuality and was in fact, the first to conduct a study on homosexuality in India in the late-seventies.

The movie also sheds light on the lesser discussed conversation around transgenerational trauma where it hints that Shakuntala Devi was bitter towards her mother because of her mother’s submissive nature to her father—who was exploitative. As a result of this, she vowed to be nothing like her mother, and be the independent and confident woman that she is, who is not afraid to voice her mind. Her mother tells her that what goes around comes around, and one day Shakuntala Devi’s daughter will come to resent her just like she resents her mother. This is exactly what happens in the movie and it shows the perpetuation of transgenerational trauma in Indian families.

Most fundamentally, the movie does not demonise a career-oriented woman for following her dreams. It attempts to educate the audience that rifts in families can occur in both traditionally conservative families as well as in modern households busting the misperception that independent working women are responsible for drifting relations in a family.

Vidya Balan essays the lead role of the woman that made it to the Guiness Book of World records and of course brings her own quirks to the film. The film reminds us of the woman that was so clever but was not given her due whilst she was around.

You can stream the film on Prime Video now.

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