Small Wonder

Indian-American actor Devika Bhise is excited about her role in a film based on the life of mathematician MS Ramanujan.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published:September 7, 2014 12:00 am
Actor Devika Bhise Actor Devika Bhise

Ever since her childhood, Devika Bhise had taken a fondness towards the stage. By the age of five her precociousness was reflected in her knack for picking up Bharatanatyam steps at her mother’s dance academy in New York. Around the same time her passion for acting was also taking shape. “Acting has been my passion since I was a kid. It was always something I knew I wanted to do. Along the way I had other interests such as dancing and singing,” says American-actor Bhise, over the phone from Mumbai before leaving for Chennai to shoot the Indian leg of Matthew Brown’s The Man Who Knew Infinity, based on Indian mathematician MS Ramanujan’s life.

This will be Bhise’s first major film role. The project also stars Slumdog Millionaire-fame actor Dev Patel (who plays Ramanujan in the film), Kevin McNally, acting veterans Jeremy Irons and Stephen Fry and is the cinematic adaptation of Ramanujan’s biography titled The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of The Genius Ramanujan, by American author Robert Kanigel. The film looks at how Ramanujan moved to Cambridge University where he was discovered by English mathematician GH Hardy. The 23-year-old who grew up in Manhatten, is little-known in the acting world, having featured in a small role in the Uma Thurman-Colin Firth-starrer The Accidental Husband (2008) and Anamika: Her Glorious Past (2006).

Before getting called for auditions for The Man…., Bhise was in a play titled The Partition, based on Kanigel’s book. “It is a special role since my training in Bharatanatyam made me feel comfortable in playing the character,” says Bhise, who essays the role of Ramanujan’s wife, Janaki, in the film. The film looks at Janaki’s life in her late-teens. And even though the film is set in the early 20th century, Bhise feels she can relate to the character. “She is sort of like me and exhibits the characteristics of a modern woman. She was extremely strong to live her life without a husband, while at the same time giving back to the community. She had to pay her way through to get a lot of things done,” says Bhise, who recently graduated from an acting programme at John Hopkins University, where she was mentored by actor John Astin (from The Addams Family).

Besides acting, Bhise dabbled in direction, making a documentary titled Hijras: The Third Gender, which won the Best Social Documentary at the Independent Film and Video festival in New York. “I wanted to see what it was like behind the camera. It was really hard because I did it on my own. If I had a crew it would be less difficult. It is easy to see how this is made so now when I act I get a larger picture of what is going on behind the camera,” she says. Since then she has starred in a Broadway play Miles To Go, after which she managed to bag a role in an episode of a reality TV series for MTV, called One Bad Choice, which airs later this year.

Even though she has taken nascent steps into acting, Bhise feels that her upbringing holds a clue to her future in cinema. “I have an advantage doing crossover films. I feel I can provide an insight into characters that other Americans cannot. And I don’t being typecast in certain roles.” she says.

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