Saturday, February 27, 2010

KCK+ Teen Patti 

Karthik Calling Karthik

Karthik Narayan looks like a loser in a film is supposed to – glasses, slicked down hair, boring striped shirt, shuffling walk, timid manner. The girl in the office he is in love with, does not even notice him.

You can see that the guy’s due for a makeover — Vijay Lalwani’s assured debut Karthik Calling Karthik is about how that happens and what transpires when the mouse begins to roar. You can’t even reveal what the film is about without giving the plot away, but there’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy cum suspense thriller in there.

The nerdy Karthik who is bullied by everyone from his landlord to his boss (Ram Kapoor) and co-workers, gets a call one day, from a man who claims to be Karthik, and offers to change his life. He follows the instructions by the voice and suddenly he gets everything he wants — promotion, corner office, smart clothes and most importantly the girl, Shonali (Deepika Padukone). The voice cautions him that he must never reveal the secret to anyone, but Karthik does and the result is traumatic.

It doesn’t take much to guess what is going on, but still, the film is engaging, despite its crawling pace. There is always sympathy for the underdog and Karthik just begs to be saved, how can one not sympathise with the character?

Superbly shot (Sanu Verghese), with the right atmosphere created by the oppressive production design (Devika Shroff)—his bleak bachelor pad, the soulless office. Shonali is like a ray of sunshine in that life and Deepika plays her with the right amount of glamour and simplicity—for all her beauty, Shonali is a loser at romance, and as emotionally fragile as Karthik, but she has learnt to cope.

A premise as intriguing as this is bound to have a prosaic resolution, but it doesn’t matter, while the story is unravelling, you are carried along with the ups and downs in Karthik’s life, and Farhan somehow obliterates his real-life stylish personality to play the drowning protagonist, effortlessly carrying the film through its dull or rough patches. Worth a look for the seeker of offbeat entertainment, who also is willing to suspend disbelief.

Teen Patti

For a filmmaker, getting Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley in the same frame is quite an achievement, unfortunately Leena Yadav’s Teen Patti (her second after Shabd) has little else to offer.

Inspired by Hollywood thriller 21, this film is about a professor of mathematics at an institute called BIT (?); Venkat Subramaniam’s (Bachchan), work on the Theory of Probability gets only derision from his colleagues, but he manages to excite a younger professor Shantanu (R. Madhavan) and a bunch of students into applying it to winning ‘Teen Patti’ card games.

Shantanu thinks they should test the theory in a real gambling den, and they all get into disguise and go into a seedy place. They win the games, but get into trouble with a criminal. Venkat is blackmailed into continuing to play and give a section of the winnings to an unseen threatening voice on the phone.

From a reasonably interesting premise, the film goes nowhere. They are a series of repetitive card games in increasingly garish surroundings, their winnings get bigger, so do their problems. A bunch of stars like Jackie Shroff and Ajay Devgan make special appearances as gamblers.

Yadav loses grip on the plot quite soon, and the many little sub-plots she tries to introduce, don’t really add up. Why does Mita Vashist, playing a querulous Mrs Kale, appear and vanish; neither Shantanu’s affair with a glamorous woman, nor his engagement to his girlfriend lead to anything. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gay angle is introduced. All the frantic comings and goings evoke no response from others on the campus.

The greed and constant high of wealth throws the young people off balance, but never does the viewer feel the thrill or the tension of the situation. Aseem Bajaj’s camera creates a dark, moody ambience, but is just not supported by the script. A hint to the mystery is also thrown in much too early, so when it finally unravels, there is no surprise.

And finally Sir Ben has nothing to do, but listen to Venkat’s narration in a series of flashbacks. But why is the mathematician telling this Cambridge man the story? In the end the moral is laughably simple—greed is bad. Not the kind of thing that comes in a flash of blinding insight. Amitabh Bachchan does his best in an insipid role. The newbies, Dhruv Ganesh, Siddharth Kher, Vaibhav Talwar and Shraddha Kapoor are earnest and enthusiastic, but the film is as disappointing as a lost bet.


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