An intriguing story about a scientist

An intriguing story about a scientist

Coming alive on stage

An intriguing story about a scientist

A play on the life of a scientist. If this statement has not captured your interest, you will miss out on an exciting tale of ambition, betrayal and a complicated friendship between two great astrophysicists of modern times.

Written by Nilanjan Choudhury and directed by Prakash Belawadi, “The Square Root of a Sonnet”, is about the life of “little known” astrophysicist, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar.

Chandrasekhar, the nephew of Nobel laureate C V Raman, was 19 and on a ship from Bombay to Cambridge when he formulated the equations that led to the discovery of black holes. But his own mentor, Sir Arthur Eddington, did all he could to suppress the young scientist’s work, resulting in a Nobel Prize awarded over 50 years late in 1983.

What was the motive behind his betrayal? Presented by Centre for Film and Drama, the play is an attempt to understand this. The four characters -- Chandrasekhar (Choudhury), his wife (Spoorthi Gumaste), Eddington (Sal Yusuf), and his sister (Teju Belawadi) are all dead and are reflecting on their lives, trying to find some answers. After being in the pipeline for long, the play will open in Ranga Shankara on Thursday, on the occasion of Engineer’s Day.

Physics being his first love and having studied the subject in IIT-Kanpur, Choudhury reads extensively on these topics. A book he read about the relationship between the two scientists, titled ‘Empire of the Stars’ by Arthur I Miller inspired him to write the play.

“Movies and plays on science-related themes are very few in our country. There are movies in the West about Indian scientists but very few productions by Indians on Indians. I wanted to do my bit to address the gap,” Choudhury said. He chose to tell the story of this unsung hero, who is largely unknown in his own country, despite having made the discovery which paved the way for the work of other scientists like Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.

Months of research went into the script, on the history of events and on the scientific theories which are the focus of the play. “Since he lived in USA, there was a lot of information available in the form of interviews and media articles.”

To make sure that the play interests a layperson, Choudhury got some of his friends to read the script. “They were fascinated to read about the way nature behaves and that is the purpose of my play. The idea is to get people to understand the beauty of science, which is unfortunately taught in a very dry manner in our schools,” he added.

Several research institutes have shown interest in having the play performed on their premises.

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