A brilliant Math professor, Venkat Subramaniam (Amitabh Bachchan), who speaks English with a clipped British accent and Hindi with the ease of a man from Allahabad, cracks a gambling formula for teen patti, or flush. Besides being exceptionally talented and eccentric, Venkat is also frustrated by an academic system that constantly rejects his research papers and where less deserving people climb up the ladder.
When Venkat believes he has figured out a formula for probability he applies it to counting cards. He then enlists colleague Shantanu (R Madhavan) and three students to put his theory into practice. The group, clumsily disguised, frequents seedy, underground card dens and begins to amass money and enemies too. When a blackmailer starts threatening them and demanding a share of the winnings, Venkat finds that playing cards is no longer about testing his theory but a necessity for the survival of his students.
The premise of this film is certainly inspired by Hollywood film 21; however Teen Patti’s message is that greed is corrupting and limitless. The more they win, the more the team wants. The more powerful they feel, the more their behaviour begins to change – for the worse. One of the weaknesses of the script is the lame back stories to the students and their motivations that prevents the audience from relating to the characters. Also the early clues are a giveaway to who the blackmailer is. When one young couple starts playing Bonnie and Clyde and Madhavan pretends to be Italian you know the filmmakers are taking you for a ride. But there are some nice moments and a few moving ones. The production is lavish; the cinematography rich, but overall the plot is convoluted and takes many short-cuts.
The actors are largely amateur, there are a number of ridiculous cameos like Jackie Shroff as playboy Tony Milano and Ajay Devgan as a richie rich spouting cheap philosophy on the card table. The scenes between Bachchan and Ben Kingsley are classy, with Kingsley being the actor most at ease in this overcooked story.
Overall Teen Patti is a gamble that doesn’t pay off.