Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Philosopher in Bollywood

Bertrand Russell was the greatest English-speaking philosophers of the 20th century and   also one of its greatest mathematicians.  Few people know it but he also had time to appear in   what were then known in the west as “Bombay Dreadfuls” and what we now call Bollywood movies. It was 1967, Russell was already 95 and the big issues of the day were the Vietnam war and nuclear disarmament, the former which Russell opposed and the latter which he supported. So when he was approached to appear in a film about a young Indian studying medicine in London who planned to go to Japan to help the victims of Hiroshima, the always kindly and open Russell agreed.  The film is called Aman and the doctor, played by Rajendra Kumar, gets an audience with the great man who gives him his blessings and encouragement. It’s not clear  whether  the director coned Russell or that he Russell understood that the film was going to be a popular one – perhaps he thought it was going to be a documentary. Anyway, the result really is one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.