Published: 30th July 2020
Shakuntala Devi would have given people a run for their money on Twitter: Why Anu Menon made a film on her
Ahead of the release of the film Shakuntala Devi, we caught up with its director Anu Menon for a quick chat. She tells us why Vidya Balan was her only choice for the character
Anu Menon, the director of the Vidya Balan starrer Shakuntala Devi, tells us a story. It goes like this. "How does it feel like to be a female mathematician?" a journalist once asked Shakuntala Devi. Without wasting a second, Devi asked him, "How does it feel like to be a male journalist?" Menon burst out laughing at the end of it.
She wasn't a witness to this incident. Chances are that Menon may have not been born at the time when this occurred. But this was one of those many anecdotes that she came across during her three-year-long research about Devi, to make a film about her. "I loved her razor-sharp humour and one-liners," Menon tells us, sitting in her house in London. The film's release was a few days away when we spoke. But she wasn't stressed or tense. Instead, she was excited to recall those anecdotes. "She would have these interesting repartees," says Menon. "Her interviews are always fun, just like Vidya Balan's. You would usually expect a mathematician to be serious, introverted and withdrawn. But she was just the opposite. No one who's met her would forget that experience. She would have said something politically incorrect or have made them laugh. In fact, if she was on twitter, she would have given people a run for their money," laughs Menon, adding that no one other than Vidya Balan could have essayed the part better than Vidya Balan.
Here's our interaction with her:
The director who's previously made films like London, Paris, New York and Waiting, started working on the project in 2016 and the first leg of research happened when she met Devi's daughter Anupama Banerji, who also lives in London. " I always wanted to talk about different types of women on screen. My daughter once told me that boys like maths and girls like English. That stung to me. I thought we should show that women like Maths as much as men do and Shakuntala Devi's was the first name that came to my mind," she says.
Four years later, she believes that there's no time more relevant than today's to tell Devi's story. "Devi lived her life to the fullest. She had her ups and downs, successes and failures. She embraced it all. Her life sends out an important message that things may not be perfect all the time, but put your best foot forward. That's exactly what she did," says Menon. "She woke up, wore her lipstick, her best saree and did something or the other. I think it's a beautiful message," she adds.