Leena Yadav's 'Teen Patti' is an extremely stylish film, very slick and all of that. But somewhere down the line, the film loses out on its content and all that slickness doesn't amount to much. But to give the film's its due, despite its resemblance to '21' from Hollywood, 'Teen Patti' has an interesting premise, revolving around greed and its pitfalls. But the story loses some of its sheen when being translated on screen. There are parts of the screenplay which are quite unclear. One is never really sure what this probability theory is, that the Professor discovers, which helps him rake in all the moolah at the gambling joints. Some figures and equations popping out of his head, don't really explain anything.
Secondly, despite all the noise, there is really no proper interaction between Sir Ben Kingsley and Amitabh Bachchan. In fact, the Big B seems to be doing all the talking, or at least most of it, and Sir Ben, is wasted in a role which has him nodding his head in silence for the better part. So yes, the two great actors share screen space, but there are no firecrackers. Sir Ben's presence is proof of a sheer waste of talent. Why have him in the first place, one wonders?
What could have helped the movie's cause would have been a better written screenplay. Anybody who has the least interest in Maths would not even have a clue as to what the film is talking about. It helps a film's cause if it is accessible to all.
The film's story revolves around an eccentric maths professor, Venkat (Amitabh Bachchan), whose research papers keep getting rejected by the dean (Barry John). One day, while playing a game of 'teen patti' online, the prof realises that he can predict the winner. Something to do with probability. This time, however, a young professor, Shantanu (Madhavan), encourages him to test his theory in real life.
While it is all maths for Venkat, Shantanu has an ulterior motive as he is in desperate need of money. So, armed with a bunch of students, the two professors go out into the gambling dens in seedy localities, test their theory, and come out winners. It all starts out as a game, at least for Venkat, but it soon slips out of hand. Blackmail and intrigue make their way into the plot and one of the student ends up committing suicide, which signals the end of the game.
The narrative moves constantly from the past to the present as Venkat's character is seen narrating the story to Sir Ben's character. The first half of the movie moves well, with Yadav deftly steering the narrative by building up the mystery about the telephone caller.
But in the second half, the film tends to get repetitive with most of the characters still inhabiting the gambling dens. The climax, when it comes, seems to be a hurried affair. The writers, Yadav and Shiv Subramanyam can take credit for the uneven quality of writing which lifts the film only in places.
In this, her second outing, Yadav displays her skill in a lot of sequences even though she fails to steer the film successfully in the second half. But technically, the film is quite sound, as Aseem Bajaj's cinematography is a treat. The ambience created by the screenplay and the cinematography is superbly enhanced by Salim Sulaiman's music.
Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of the maths professor with total ease and confidence and does a competent job, as always. His acceptance speech at the award function, one of the hallmarks of most of his roles, is quite outstanding and very moving. It's amazing, how he can still continue to move us to tears or joy with his rich baritone.
The Big B is well supported by R. Madhavan, who plays his flawed character quite well. Sir Ben, of course, makes up for a lack of a role with his sheer charismatic presence and leaves one wanting more.
But the real surprise of the film are the four youngsters, who impress with their confidence in front of the camera. Shraddha Kapoor, Vaibhav, Siddharth and Dhruv stand their ground amid the veterans and acquit themselves very well indeed. As for the rest of the cast, Barry John is impressive and so is Mahesh Manjrekar. As for Ajay Devgn, Jackie Shroff, Tinnu Anand and Shakti Kapoor etc, they hardly have anything much to do. On the whole, 'Teen Patti' scores on style, but fumbles on content.