Playing high stakes

LEANING ON The power of a youthful audience

LEANING ON The power of a youthful audience   | Photo Credit: Photo: Bhagya Prakash k.


Director Leena Yadav tells MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER while her film Teen Patti is about mathematics, in the final count it is a human drama

Though she is now based in Mumbai for work, director Leena Yadav comes to Bangalore often. “My parents are here. Dad was in the Army and after he retired, my parents settled here.”

In town to promote her second film, “Teen Patti” the director talks about the genesis of the film. “The story idea came from music director Vishal and it immediately caught my attention. I was exploring some interesting ideas dealing with the youth and a subject like gambling addressed the highway youth are on today. As I did my research, I realized it is a complex subject and enlisted the help of writer Shiv Kumar Subramaniam.”

The film, Leena says, tells the story of a mathematics professor Venkat Subramaniam. “He is an academician who hits upon a theory of probability. To test the theory, he needs to step into the real world and as he does so, he enters a vicious circle of greed and avarice.”

Gambling, Leena says, is a metaphor for life. “Each character makes certain choices that deeply impact their lives.”

“Teen Patti” was in the news for being similar to Robert Luketic's “21”. “The script for ‘Teen Patti' was registered in 2007 while ‘21' came out in 2008. The similarities are that both movies are based in college campuses and have gambling as the central theme.”

Casting coup

The film, set in the rarefied world of academics and the seedy underbelly of Mumbai, has a high-octane cast. “In all our heads we knew that Venkat could only be played by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. We had no other options. He agreed to do the role after the first meeting. Post that, Madhavan and the four debutantes came on board. The auditions for the students were a gruelling process and took over a year.”

“Teen Patti” also features Sir Ben Kingsley. Talking about getting Sir Ben on board, Leena explains: “Venkat idolises Perci Trachtenberg, a maths professor in London. He is an enigmatic character and I thought who better to play it than Sir Ben. ‘Sexy Beast' is one of my favourite films. We also thought people will be able to make a connection with Sir Ben thanks to ‘Gandhi'. I would say his role is partly mathematical and partly magical.”

Like any cinema buff, Leena was overawed when she first met the Big B and Sir Ben. “On set they were so humble and gracious; they allowed me to be the storyteller. I told the DOP not to be gimmicky as the two of them are the frame.”

It adds up

To all those who feel a movie about maths cannot be interesting, Leena candidly comments, “Everyone has a mental block against maths. I had a lot of help from Professor Alladi Subramaniam from IIT Mumbai. ‘Teen Patti' is about maths but is finally a human drama. The film deals with the theory of probability, which has interesting applications. I guarantee that even if you do not know two plus two, you will be able to connect to ‘Teen Patti'!”

Talking about an ability to connect, Leena's first film “Shabd” starring Sanjay Dutt and Aishwarya Rai, was not an easily accessible work. ‘“Shabd' was an intensely personal film. I tried to simplify what goes on in a writer's mind. Though the film did not do well, I got amazing feedback. Either people loved it or did not get it. I would say ‘Teen Patti' is a more open film as compared to ‘Shabd'.”

“Shabd” also was in the news for the racy scenes featuring the deadly Dutt and Little Miss Plastic and the promos of “Teen Patti” also feature some lovely ladies turning on the heat.

“You are talking about the song, ‘Neeyat Kharab Hai',” Leena says with a laugh. “The song is at a dramatic moment. The song was picturised on Maria, who personifies the seven deadly sins, greed in particular. I want to use sexuality as a powerful force; it is more threatening than titillating.”

About future plans, the 39-year-old says with a grin, “I don't believe in pipelines. As of now I am consumed by ‘Teen Patti'. After the film, I will go on a holiday before even contemplating the next project.”

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