Bertrand Russell’s Improbable Appearance in a Bollywood Film (1967)

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.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Face to Face with Bertrand Rus­sell: Love is Wise, Hatred is Fool­ish

Three Pas­sions of Bertrand Rus­sell (and a Col­lec­tion of Free Texts)

Bertrand Rus­sell & Oth­er Big Thinkers in BBC Lec­ture Series (Free)

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