The reclusive genius Venkat [Amitabh Bachchan] has cracked a theory that could redefine the principles of probability and randomness. Venkat is encouraged to test his theory in the real world by professor Shantanu [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’, which could rake in all the moolah, he eventually succumbs to Shantanu’s charismatic persuasion. Soon, with the help of a few students, they explore the underground gambling dens 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. It takes time to get the hang of things in TEEN PATTI. But once the two professors and the students begin their sojourn to the dark alleys, the film comes into its own from thereon. The story moves back and forth, with Bachchan narrating his side of the story in flashbacks to Sir Ben, which is well integrated in the narrative. The intermission point – when the mystery about the unknown caller deepens – only heightens the expectations from the post-interval portions. But there’re hiccups! The pace gets excruciatingly slow in this hour and also, it tends to get repetitive. Among the cameos – Jackie Shroff, Ajay Devgn, Tinnu Anand and Shakti Kapoor – only the ones featuring Tinnu and Shakti stand out, while Ajay’s scene seems forced. The writing is erratic [Shiv Subramanyam, Leena Yadav], with some portions touching the peak, while a few touching the ebb. The suicide of one of the students and how it puts an end to the game is a master stroke from the writing point of view. Bachchan’s speech in the finale, when he’s bestowed with the Sir Isaac Newton Award, moves you no end. But between the suicide and the finale, the film tends to get uninteresting. Leena’s direction shows maturity in her second outing. A number of sequences are deftly executed. But how one wished Leena would learn the art of narrating stories within commercial parameters. Aseem Bajaj’s cinematography is striking. The visuals are simply incredible. Salim-Sulaiman’s music has two catchy tracks – ‘Neeyat’ [the moves of the dancer are tantalising] and the track towards the end credits. The usage of B&W in this song is truly imaginative. The choreography of both these songs [Ashley Lobo] is superb. Bachchan plays the role of a mathematician with remarkable ease. One cannot imagine anyone else in this character other than Bachchan. Especially noteworthy are the sequences between Bachchan and Sir Ben. Madhavan is excellent. The actor displays the grey shades most convincingly. The film introduces four new talents and each is confidence personified. Siddharth, Shraddha and Dhruv get maximum footage and they stand out. Vaibhav has tremendous screen presence, but his role lacks meat. Raima Sen is alright. Barry John is first-rate. Anjan Srivastava is good. Mahesh Manjrekar is effective. Saira Mohan is hardly there. Sir Ben Kingsley is an amazing actor and expectedly, he’s brilliant here. It’s a treat to watch these two magicians – Sir Ben and Bachchan – perform on screen.
On the whole, TEEN PATTI is a fresh concept for Indian viewers, made well, but limits itself to the intelligentsia and big city audiences mainly.