Getting two global movie giants, Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley, together for a film is a tough task. And the fact that Ambika A. Hinduja, the producer of Teen Patti, accomplished it with her second film is no mean feat. KoiMoi met up with the young and peppy Hinduja scion at the office of her production house, Serendipity Films, in Bombay and got her talking about the genesis of Teen Patti and what it took her to bring a stellar star cast together.
Making a film on gambling is pretty unusual for Bollywood. Who came up with the idea of TEEN PATTI?
Director Leena Yadav came to me with a mere idea in 2007; just one line. I thought the idea was rocking and told her that this could make a great film. See, I don’t get excited very easily as I have read thousands of synopses and they all seem to be the stereotypical, run-of-the-mill stuff.
So when did Big B come into the picture?
Venkat Subramaniam is the character played by Mr. Bachchan. When you see the film, you will know that nobody other than Mr. Bachchan could have played it. It comes across as if the character was written for him. Of course, we didn’t write it with him in mind. When we started, we were just purely writing a story. But once we had the story in place, we took it to Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and he agreed to do it!
Was it as easy with Sir Ben Kingsley?
Actually yes. We decided that we needed an international actor for the character of Perci Trachtenberg. In the film, Venkat looks up to Perci, and we couldn’t have Mr. Bachchan’s character looking up to a no-name. The first name that came to my mind was of Sir Ben, an international star with an appeal in India. I contacted my lawyer in LA; he knew Sir Ben’s agent. I mailed the script and, within a month, we received a positive reply. It was unbelievable. You have also put together a massive ensemble star cast that includes R. Madhavan, Raima Sen, Ajay Devgn and four newcomers. Whatever we have done for the film is purely because the script demanded it. Madhavan is an extremely versatile actor and you should just see the chemistry between him and Mr. Bachchan. It’s absolutely fantastic. We also needed four fresh faces because the script has four young characters from different socio-economic backgrounds. We auditioned over 10,000 people and we finalised the four of them, Dhruv Ganesh, Siddharth Kher, Vaibhav Talwar and Shradha Kapoor.
There were two issues with the film – Arshad Warsi’s removal from the cast and postponement of the release date due to PAA.
Arshad didn’t leave nor was he removed. We had date issues. When I recently bumped into him, he told me that he really regretted not being a part of Teen Patti. I said, ‘It’s never too late. It’s not like this is my last film.’ On the Paa issue, it’s really important for me that everybody’s on the same page. Mr. Bachchan is the face of Teen Patti and, as the producer, it didn’t make sense for me to release the film with another one of his.
You have also assisted Farhan Akthar for LAKSHYA and Subhash Ghai for YAADEIN…. What were your inputs in TEEN PATTI as somebody who understands direction?
As an individual I am very organised. So, for me, pre-production is very important, be it the rough drafts, story boards or acting sessions with debutantes. Even for the scenes of Sir Ben and Mr. Bachchan together, we had multiple reading sessionsbetween the two of them before we actually shot. We had everything planned to the ‘T’.
Serendipity, the name of your company, means sweet coincidence but your films seem anything but that.
The founding of the company was serendipitous. One fine day, I told my father (industrialist Ashok Hinduja) that I wanted to start a film company and he replied that it wasn’t so easy. But I took it up as a challenge and here I am, two films old. It’s been a very exciting journey so far.
Will TEEN PATTI also be as exciting for the audience?
It’s a thrilling concept, has three generation of actors and deals with the universal theme of greed. And you’ll see a very different Mr. Bachchan from what he’s done in the recent past. It’s an edge-of-the-seat thriller and a fun film. We release with 700 screens in India and 125 screens Overseas, including non-diaspora territories like Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. I think the audiences will enjoy it.