April issue 2010
Teen Patti features Amitabh Bachan as Venkut, a professor and mathematician at a prestigious university nearing retirement age, whose research papers keep getting rejected for being impractical. Shantanu (R. Madhavan) is a junior professor at the same institute, embroiled with the local mafia in a messy loan situation. When Venkut tells Shantanu that he thinks he has finally found a way of applying his theory of probability through a game of flush (teen patti), where he can actually predict the cards of the players and the outcome of the game, Shantanu leaps at the possibility of their hitting the jackpot.
What starts off as a harmless mathematical experiment on university premises soon leads to an entanglement with the underworld. Gambling for the sake of research is replaced by a greed for money and much more. Money for Bikram (Dhruv Ganesh), a poor student on a scholarship, means paying off loans. For Shantanu, it is a chance to start afresh by shaking off the underworld thugs he owes money to but, for Aparna (Sharadha Kapoor), the experiment is the perfect opportunity to prove to the all-male circle of researchers that her mathematical abilities are no less than that of her male peers. Siddharth (Siddharth Kher) and Abbas (Vaibhav Talwar) are in it for the boyish thrill and appetite for adventure and heroism, apart from the money.
The thrill of assumed identities, moving into bigger and more influential circles, making money and then making a dash, eventually turns into a game of blackmail, resulting in a death.
Among the old faces are many new ones and they are really the life of the movie but even Amitabh, who is cast in a very different role this time, is fun to watch. Madhavan’s character, however, is disappointing and doesn’t really compliment his acting abilities. And Ben Kingsley, who has a minor role in the movie as Perci Trachtenberg, a former magician and leading mathematician in England, is captivating each time he appears on screen or speaks in Hindi.
Fast-paced and intriguing, Teen Patti holds one’s attention throughout. Though some parts are predictable — and others entirely unnecessary — it goes to the filmmaker’s credit to show what had to be shown and say what had to be said in less than two-and-a-half hours — a huge achievement for any movie coming out of Bollywood.
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.