tv series

‘Genius’ review: Albert Einstein’s private life was as monumental as his achievements

The National Geographic series is about a life touched by politics, love and hubris and scientific accomplishment.

The National Geographic series Genius offers a worm’s eye view of the most well-known scientist in the world, Albert Einstein. Starring Geoffrey Rush as the elder Einstein and Johnny Flynn as his younger self, the series is adapted from Walter Isaacson’s 2007 biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe.

Adapting for the screen the life of a scientist is no task for the faint-hearted. The moving picture derives its thrust from the rough and tumble of an action-packed plot, while science and scientific discovery are, by their very nature, monotonous undertakings that consume those who devote their lives to them.

Writers and filmmakers therefore opt to focus on stories that have enough drama aside from scientific triumph which, at least in fictionalisation, ends up as a mere footnote to other aspects of the scientist’s life. The Theory of Everything, for instance, offered much more on Stephen Hawking’s tortuous love life than on his seminal work on string theory.

So too, on current evidence, does Genius. In a non-linear narrative that flits between the end of the 19th century and Nazi Germany, the story presents Einstein as a man full of passion not just for science but other, more tender pursuits.

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Genius.

Born into a German Jewish family in 1879, Einstein showed an early disregard for classroom pedagogy, preferring to spend time with books and conduct his own experiments. This created friction between him and his father, a businessman and manufacturer of electrical devices, who worried that his son’s quixotic ideas would ruin his prospects.

That was not to be. Einstein not only received his diploma from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich, but went on to complete his PhD there in 1905, the same year he proposed both the groundbreaking special theory of relativity and his ideas on photoelectric effect.

Genius, which is 10 episodes long, takes a leisurely look at this life. In the first two episodes, we are offered glimpses of Einstein’s time in Zurich, where he fail his first attempt at the entrance exam, and Aarau, to which he is dispatched to prepare afresh for the test. In Aarau, he falls in love with Marie, the daughter of his host Jost Winteler.

In Zurich, he meets Mileva Maric (Samantha Colley), a fellow student at the Polytechnic and the only female candidate in the mathematics and physics department. A romance blossoms, prompting Einstein to break off his engagement with Marie.

Throughout his life, Einstein could be both astonishingly callous and extraordinarily generous, and Flynn ably captures early instances of this dichotomy.

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Time Is But a Stubborn Illusion: Genius.

The other storyline is of the mature Einstein, already a Nobel laureate and German treasure, who faces the rising tide of anti-Semitism. His ideas about his homeland begin to turn after the 1922 assassination of Walther Rathenau, the country’s foreign minister, who was a friend and a fellow Jew.

Now married to his second wife Elsa (Emily Watson), Einstein finally accedes to her request to move abroad. But even a decorated scientist must answer questions about his radical past. The second episode closes on a tense interview at the US Embassy in Berlin, as Einstein is asked to convince Federal Bureau of Investigation director J Edgar Hoover, who wants to sanitise America of Communists, of his leanings. Rush makes for a close likeness of Einstein, complete with the trademark mustache and the shock of fuzzy hair.

In the popular imagination, Einstein is the genius who imagined into existence complex but fully realised theories about how the universe works. But his private life, as perhaps all private lives are, was no less monumental. Genius goes behind the scenes to fashion a life that was as touched by politics, love and hubris as it was by pioneering scientific accomplishment.

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Love and Science: Genius.
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The quirks and perks of travelling with your hard to impress mom

We must admit that the jar of pickle always comes in handy.

A year ago, Priyanka, a 26-year-old banking professional, was packing her light-weight duffel bag for an upcoming international trip. Keen to explore the place, she wanted to travel light and fuss free. It was not meant to be. For Priyanka was travelling with her mother, and that meant carrying at least two extra suitcases packed with odds and ends for any eventuality just short of a nuclear war.

Bothered by the extra suitcases that she had to lug around full of snacks and back-up woollens, Priyanka grew frustrated with her mother. However, one day, while out for some sight-seeing Priyanka and her family were famished but there were no decent restaurants in sight. That’s when her mum’s ‘food bag’ came to the rescue. Full of juice boxes, biscuits and sandwiches, her mother had remembered to pack snacks from the hotel for their day out. Towards the end of the trip, Priyanka was grateful to her mother for all her arrangements, especially the extra bag she carried for Priyanka’s shopping.

Priyanka’s story isn’t an isolated one. We spoke to many people about their mother’s travel quirks and habits and weren’t surprised at some of the themes that were consistent across all the travel memoirs.

Indian mothers are always prepared

“My mom keeps the packed suitcases in the hallway one day before our flight date. She will carry multiple print-outs of the flight tickets because she doesn’t trust smartphone batteries. She also never forgets to carry a medical kit for all sorts of illnesses and allergies”, says Shruti, a 27-year-old professional. When asked if the medical kit was helpful during the trip, she answered “All the time”, in a tone that marvelled at her mother’s clairvoyance.

Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images
Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images

Indian mothers love to feel at home, and create the same experience for their family, wherever they are

“My mother has a very strange idea of the kind of food you get in foreign lands, so she always packs multiple packets of khakra and poha for our trips. She also has a habit of carrying her favourite teabags to last the entire trip”, relates Kanchan, a marketing professional who is a frequent international flier often accompanied by her mother. Kanchan’s mother, who is very choosy about her tea, was therefore delighted when she was served a hot cup of garam chai on her recent flight to Frankfurt. She is just like many Indian mothers who love to be reminded of home wherever they are and often strive to organise their hotel rooms to give them the coziness of a home.

Most importantly, Indian mothers are tough, especially when it comes to food

Take for instance, the case of Piyush, who recalls, “We went to this fine dining restaurant and my mother kept quizzing the waiter about the ingredients and the method of preparation of a dish. She believed that once she understood the technique, she would be able to make a better version of the dish just so she could pamper me!”

Indian mothers are extremely particular about food – from the way its cooked, to the way it smells and tastes. Foreign delicacies are only allowed to be consumed if they fulfil all the criteria set by Mom i.e. is it good enough for my children to consume?

An approval from an Indian mother is a testament to great quality and great taste. In recognition of the discerning nature of an Indian mum and as a part of their ‘More Indian Than You Think’ commitment, Lufthansa has tailored their in-flight experiences to surpass even her exacting standards. Greeted with a namaste and served by an Indian crew, the passengers feel right at home as they relish the authentic Indian meals and unwind with a cup of garam chai, the perfect accompaniment to go with a variety of Indian entertainment available in the flight. As Lufthansa’s in-flight offerings show, a big part of the brand is inherently Indian because of its relationship with the country spanning over decades.

To see how Lufthansa has internalised the Indian spirit and become the airline of choice for flyers looking for a great Indian experience, watch the video below.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.