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Teen Patti

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Hindi, Drama, Thriller, 2010, Color





Perci Trachtenberg (Ben Kingsley), widely regarded as the word's greatest living mathematician, meets Venkat (Amitabh Bachchan), a reclusive math genius from India, at a high rolling casino in London. Venkat tells Perci about an equation that could not only change the dialogue on mathematics forever. As it turns out, the reclusive genius Venkat has cracked a theory that could redefine the principles pf probability and randomness. However, as with all exceptional knowledge, his equation has its upside - as well as its dark underbelly. Aware that he is on the precipice of an extraordinary discovery, one that could find applications across various sciences, Venkat is encouraged to test his theory in the real world by Professor Shantanu (R Madhavan), an ambitious colleague of Venkat. Although Venkat has no interest in the money that could come from practicing his equation to crack Teen Patti, he eventually succumbs to Shantanu's charismatic persuasion. Soon, with the help of a few students, each with a complicated and singular fate of their own, they explore the addas of Mumbai. But what starts out as an experiment between a charismatic young professor and an eccentric older one soon descends into a game neither of them can control...



That Leena Yadav's Teen Patti makes you pause before you judge it is a reason for optimism. After all, how many Indian films have tried to doff a hat to Bonnie and Clyde in a mainstream movie? And when was the last time anyone attempted a psychological crime thriller, with no guns or villains? Ok scratch the gun part, but the argument still holds good. And Abbas - Mastan films don't count.

But once you give it a thought, the movie, just like the tribute, is half-baked. The optimism is short-lived, and in hindsight, entirely transient. The most rankling thing about Teen Patti is its inconsistency. There are so many significant setups in plot and character that are either forgotten or are handled in a gnawingly random manner. That it happens with three of the five central roles seals the deal for the film. Take Sid's relationship with Aparna, our Bonnie and Clyde. There is an 'edge' to it, and a fair amount of build up in establishing a certain identity and flavor to them. And then, just when you feel that something's going to give, the whole thing just phases out. Grrr.

Madhavan's Shantanu is riddled with cliches, and of course, you're left to wonder whatever happened to his fiance, for whom he becomes involved in the first place. It is Madhavan's fine form as an actor that really makes Shantanu watchable, and often the spark of the ensemble. His is an affable, easy portrayal, that suits the grimness of his character's situation very well.

And what of Amitabh Bachchan? While he plays a misunderstood genius mathematician competently, his character graph sorely lacks moments that can pull the film towards any emotional identity. His Venkat Subramaniam is forever vacillating between the moral degradation of his experiment and the practical necessity for it. Sadly, this conflict becomes an irritant to the point of absurd rather than a cohesive plot point. This is a blame the filmmaker must shoulder, for it is a fatal mistake. And the inconsistent diction! One moment Tamilian, British English the next. The less said of Ben Kingsley's horrendous, shoddy, and abysmal dubbing, the better.

It is these touches that are an indication of how much the director is in control, and in this case, it's a dead give away. These flaws expose a weak, repetitive screenplay, which generally stays devoid of ideas to move the story ahead. Perhaps a case could be made of a more internalized narrative, with some stray moments of depth raising their head through the story. But like almost everything in this film, the case is never fully made, and you are only left to wonder. Like the screenplay, the pace is terribly inconsistent as well, and affects the grip it has on the audience. Starting off as a slick crime thriller for the first 30 minutes, the ideas and therefore the pacing comes to a grinding halt thereafter, as the filmmakers switch to a more introspective mode to take the story ahead. This doesn't work, and even some compelling moments of drama towards the end that form at least an honest resolution to the story, fail to arouse you.

Sometimes, criticizing a film can be objective, and independent of the filmmaker's craftsmanship, and you feel like doing this in the case of Teen Patti. Sadly, Leena deals a classic Bollywood hand: an ambitious vision of an almost new wave-like study of human depravation, curtailed and eventually packed off as a loosely made thriller, thanks to the limited ability of the script and its writers. Unlike Subramaniam's uncanny ability to pick a winner at the teen patti table, the makers of this film held all the cards, but still couldn't raise their game to draw a winner.


Upperstall review by: Mr Care





 

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