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Just how good is Vidya Balan in Maths?

By Rajeev Masand
July 24, 2020 12:36 IST
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'I used to be crazy about dates, about car numbers, phone numbers and people would ask, "How can you remember all these things?".'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Vidya Balan/Instagram

Vidya Balan plays Shakuntala Devi in her new film.

"She wanted to live every moment like it was her last," Vidya tells CNN-News18 Entertainment Editor Rajeev Masand about the late 'human computer'.

When you do a biopic on Shakuntala Devi, when you do a biopic on a mathematics legend, you have to be prepared for the questions about your own relationship with numbers. Are you a fan of Maths? Were you good at Maths always?

I actually have a thing for numbers.

I used to be crazy about dates, about car numbers, phone numbers and people would ask, 'How can you remember all these things?'.

Over time, I lost my touch because now you are using the phone for everything.

You just feed in phone numbers. You don't have to remember anything anymore.

So this film actually helped me rekindle my love for numbers and I love that.

Were you a Maths student?

I was a fairly good Maths student.

I remember geometry in 10th standard. We had a chapter called Construction, which had to do with what they called 'diagrams' and I just couldn't do it.

So I decided that those 12 marks I'm going to leave.

But the rest of the paper, I did really well.

Except for those 12 marks, I think I got 63 out of 75.

So that bit in the trailer where you say 'Maths mein koi rules nahi sirf jaadu hai', you are the only person who agrees with that because I see all those poor students going, 'No, no'.

I hope this will change people, especially children's relationship with Maths.

I discovered some shortcuts, especially through Vedic Maths while preparing for this film.

I have found that it could make life so much easier for students.

So let's hope that suddenly kids want to do Maths and major in Maths when they grow up.

I watched some videos of the real Shankuntala Devi on YouTube and it actually made me more excited about the film. The trailer is great and watching those videos makes you kind of realise who this person was.
Correct me if I'm wrong, she had a swag about her. She knew she was special and she was not shy about showing that off.
I saw this clip where they put up an equation on the board and she says, like you do in the trailer, 'You want me to give you the answer from right to left or left to right'. She really was someone with a lot of personality.

Absolutely, which is why she is so much more than just being 'The Mathematical Genius'.

She was known as the human computer, but beyond that, she was someone who lived life to the fullest.

Initially, when Anu (Menon, director) and I spoke about it, it was about doing a biopic on the Maths genius.

We all have a certain perception right, someone who is a mathematical genius or even interested in Maths. You'd think of that person as being a slightly geeky, a bit serious.

But what we discovered was a full-bodied person within -- wicked sense of humour, she laughed easily, she loved dancing, she loved dressing up.

Apparently, she and her husband would go to these clubs in Calcutta and spend the night just dancing.

She was one of those people who lived life fully.

She was unapologetic about the fact that she wanted everything from life.

She wanted this, that and the other.

She loved her food. She had diabetes, but she would have three spoons of sugar in the tea.

She was a woman of excesses in that sense.

It was so amazing to discover that a woman in the 1970s lived life exactly the way she wanted to.

I think that for me was the biggest revelation.

She wrote the first book on homosexuality (The World of Homosexuals, she wrote a book of recipes for men, wrote puzzle books, was an astrologer, entered politics.

She wanted to live every moment like it was her last.

The interesting thing is she coloured her hair up to the very end. She didn't want a single white strand.

She wore bright lipstick, bright colours, her nails were always painted.

You know, she was someone who enjoyed every aspect of life.

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Rajeev Masand