After dabbling in Hollywood films and Broadway, Indian-American actor Devika Bhise was last seen playing Janaki, the wife of popular mathematician S Ramanujan in The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015). Interestingly, she not only featured in the film adaptation of the book by Robert Kanigel, but has also acted in a play, called The Partition, which is based on the title. When asked about the biggest challenge she faced in essaying the character, Devika says, “I had to transform myself completely from a 21st century New Yorker to a Brahmin Iyengar girl from the early 20th century. The other hurdle was that Janaki’s life was quite tragic. So, the part of the story that revolves around her, was emotionally taxing.”
Devika, who has already brushed shoulders with Uma Thurman and Colin Firth in The Accidental Husband (2008), talks about working with Dev Patel, who plays S Ramanujan in the movie. “I used to spend a lot of time on the sets with Dev. He brings a great deal of spontaneity to his acting. I have seen his film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and he delivered a great performance in it,” she says.
Praising the film’s cast, Devika calls Jeremy Irons “a gentleman of another calibre”. She adds, “He’s the kind of actor I would like to turn into one day. He exudes so much humility, charm and grace. I also met Stephen Fry, who has a mind that is unparalleled. A lot of the actors in the movie belong to the old school [of acting], and that really was a good learning experience.”
Watch: Trailer of The Man Who Knew Infinity
Devika adds that she was waiting to play an Indian character in a film. “I was really excited about this movie because I got to play an Indian character. I couldn’t wait to be cast as an Indian. The problem I had in Hollywood earlier was that people would cast me as a Puerto Rican, Hispanic or an African American person, but never as an Indian,” says the actor.
While a lot of Indian actors are venturing into Hollywood projects, Devika feels “there’s still much to be done”. She adds, “If you compare the situation now with what it was like 10 years ago, it’s like apples and oranges. But look at the Oscars this year. There was a lot of controversy about African-American representation. But an Asian — a Pakistani woman — won an award for a documentary, and it wasn’t talked about much. We still need to be aggressive about the fact that we need our representation as well.”