Cinema

Let the game begin

Leena Yadav, director of Teen Patti with Madhavan.  

Five years after her the release of her debut film Shabd, director Leena Yadav ventures into the world of gambling, not often explored in Hindi cinema. The buzz around Teen Patti grew larger when she managed a casting coup by bringing together Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley. “The first member of the cast I had on board was Mr. Bachchan. As soon as the first draft was done, we (Leena and producer Ambika Hinduja) sounded out the idea to him. He liked the plot, gave us more suggestions and we got the bound script ready. Then we approached Hollywood agents to get in touch with Sir Ben Kingsley,” says Leena. She needed a Western actor to play an enigmatic mathematician, she reasons. “In the film, Mr. Bachchan's character looks up to this mathematician.”

The idea for Teen Patti, she reveals, happened over a cup of coffee. “Composer Vishal Dadlani is a good friend and we had worked together in Shabd. Once, while having coffee, he came up with this idea of a story that deals with gambling. I found it different, challenging and interesting. I researched more on gambling, the scams and psychology of gambling.” She got co-writer Shiv Shankar on board because “two minds are better than one.”

Leena was particular that she wanted the film to involve the youth. The story required youngsters and she roped in Shraddha Kapoor, Siddharth Kher, Vaibhav Talwar and Dhruv Ganesh. Madhavan stepped in to enact the part of a professor.

The going wasn't to be smooth though. Leena soon discovered similarities between the premise of Teen Patti and the Hollywood film, 21, starring Kevin Spacey. “My script was ready before 21. But I know people will compare Teen Patti with 21. The similarity between the two films ends with the fact that both films have a professor and a few students against a gambling backdrop.”

The most memorable part of Teen Patti, she says, was directing Bachchan and Kingsley. “I will cherish the moments when I felt humbled watching both of them perform.” She affirms that the movie doesn't glorify gambling but uses it to project a human drama.

While most directors in the fraternity would have done a handful of films in five years, Leena is happy taking it slow.

“When I look back after 30 years, I want to feel proud of my work. This film took time to research and we spent a year writing it. Gambling is not legal in India and that made access to gambling dens tougher. It was challenging for me and the art director (Ayesha Punvani) to work on the sets. She designed almost 80 sets. Finally, we were happy with the film.”


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 8:25:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Let-the-game-begin/article16815539.ece

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