‘Teen Patti’ is India’s version of ‘21’

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan
Ben Kingsley and Amitabh Bachchan in Leena Yadav's Teen Patti
Ben Kingsley and Amitabh Bachchan in Leena Yadav's Teen Patti
The movie ‘Teen Patti’, released in 2010, tells the story of Venkat Subramaniam, an Indian maths professor who tries to use a theory that could redefine the principles of probability and randomness using one of the most popular online casino games called Teen patti (a card game similar to poker). This theory, if successful, would allow someone to predict the outcome of Teen patti, if they knew the three cards in the hand of one of the participants (other than themselves). That is the basic premise of this movie, and with some stellar cast members, it is quite an interesting watch.

Venkat is played by one of India’s most famous and legendary actors, Amitabh Bachchan, while there is an added flavor of film royalty through Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays the British mathematician who invites Venkat to London for a high-stakes game to test his theory. As the movie progresses, we see the effectiveness of this theory as Venkat and his handpicked students begin to roll in the money, but they raise the ire of Mumbai’s mafia when they enter and begin cleaning up in the local illicit teen patti games. One of the students who joins them later, turns out to be untrustworthy as well, and the plot soon descends into jealousy, betrayal and outright greed from the protagonists.

Oddly enough, the weakest scenes in the movie are the ones featuring the two titans, Bachchan and Kingsley, together. While Sir Ben has only a few scenes in the movie, amounting to a cameo role, they are quite important in moving the plot along. One would have thought that the two legends would have been absolute gold when appearing together, but it seems as if the director, Leena Yadav, was intimidated by their presence and allowed them to shoot their scenes without much direction.

Bachchan is his usual brilliant self throughout the rest of the movie, while R Madhavan, who plays Shantanu Biswas, a junior professor who Venkat goes to test his theory, is also extremely good. Amongst the students, the standout is Shraddha Kapoor, who shows spunk and decent acting chops, coming from a film family herself as the daughter of another veteran actor, Shakti Kapoor, who also has a cameo in the movie, incidentally.

The background score is intense, with the composers Salim-Sulaiman capturing the mood on the screen perfectly. However, some of the acting and set-pieces were not polished, with the team’s hand signals in the casino, for example, being blatantly obvious to anybody in a 15-foot radius. While yes, there is a need to make such things abundantly clear to the audience, it could have been done with a lot more subtlety.

Nevertheless, ‘Teen Patti’ is an enjoyable watch, and despite its basic premise being very similar to the Hollywood hit ‘21’, there is enough ingenuity in this flick to keep the viewer somewhat engaged throughout.

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