Here’s one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Bertrand Russell, the eminent mathematician and philosopher, once made a cameo appearance in a Bollywood movie.
The year was 1967. Russell was by then a very frail 95-year-old man. Besides finishing work on his three-volume autobiography, Russell was devoting much of his remaining time to the struggle for peace and nuclear disarmament. To that end, he sometimes made himself available to people he thought could help the cause. (See our March 2012 post, “How Bertrand Russell Turned the Beatles Against the Vietnam War.”) So when he was asked to appear in a movie called Aman, about a young Indian man who has just received his medical degree in London and wants to go to Japan to help victims of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russell said yes.
It’s a weird scene. The eager young graduate, played by Rajendra Kumar, is granted an audience with the famous philosopher, who gives him his blessing and offers a few words of wisdom. Sadly, much of what Russell has to say is drowned out by the Hindi-language narration. But the clip above offers an intriguing glimpse of Russell at his home in London only three years before his death. Its appearance on the Internet has caused considerable amusement. One observer noted that, as an actor, Russell has only three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. Truth really is stranger than fiction.