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B & B - How Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley came together in Cambridge to shoot for Ambika Hinduja's Teen Patti

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AMIT ROY IN LONDON   |   Published 08.05.09, 12:00 AM

So what was it like when Big B met Big Ben? Ambika Hinduja, still only 30, can still scarcely believe that she and her director Leena Yadav have managed to pull off what amounts to a cinematic coup — get Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley, who won an Oscar in 1982 for Gandhi, to act opposite each other in Teen Patti (Three Cards).

“In the history of Indian cinema it is the first time ever where you have had an international name working in an Indian film,” claims Ambika, who is producing the $7m budget movie which uses gambling as a background.

She explains: “You have had Naseeruddin Shah working in a film, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with Sean Connery; you have had Aishwarya work in a lot of international films. But you have never had an international name, especially an Academy Award winner, work in an Indian film.”

Over two perfect sunlit days, Ambika and Leena finished off their last bit of filming at St John’s College in Cambridge and upmarket Mayfair in London. Post production has started in Mumbai.

Bachchan is 66, Kingsley a year younger. Bachchan plays Venkat Subramanium, a mathematics professor who tells his story to the curiously named Perci Trachtenberg, Kingsley’s character. At five or six crucial moments, the conversation cuts away to the story before returning to the dialogue between the two men.

The script was written very much with Bachchan in mind, reveals Ambika, whose father is the Mumbai businessman Ashok Hinduja and whose uncles, Srichand and Gopi Hinduja, run the dynasty from London. This is Ambika’s second producer credit after Being Cyrus.

When she and Leena went to see Bachchan, he asked them to narrate the plot and accepted the offer without any fuss.

“If Mr Bachchan had said no, this film would not have got made,” admits Ambika, who began filming last year but then ran into her own high-profile wedding earlier this year.

Kingsley’s name was recommended by “the man who did the deal for us and I said, ‘Exactly,’” recalls Ambika, who was aware that Kingsley had “done amazing stuff from Gandhi to Sexy Beast”.

“I sent a copy of the script, Sir Ben read the script and he got back very quickly,” she adds. “He said, ‘Yes, it’s a very exciting project.’ I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s actually agreed.’ I was very, very.... I had no words…I was so excited.”

The chemistry between the “two geniuses” was obvious from the moment the director called, “And action!”

“They both got in and out of their characters like this…,” demonstrates Ambika snapping her fingers. “I saw them do their job in the most brilliant way possible.”

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