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Kingsley gambles on success in B-town debut

entertainment Updated: Feb 24, 2010 16:54 IST

AFP
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Ben KingsleyBritish actor Ben Kingsley this week makes his debut in a Bollywood film, nearly 30 years after his Oscar-winning performance in Gandhi catapulted him to worldwide fame. The 66-year-old plays a brilliant mathematician, Perci Trachtenberg, in the thriller Teen Patti who meets a reclusive fellow academic, Venkat, at a London casino.

Venkat (Amitabh Bachchan) tells him of a discovery he has made that he believes could redefine ideas about probability and tests his theory on a tour of Mumbai's illegal gambling dens.

Director Leena Yadav's film has an all-star cast, including Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, A Mighty Heart), Boman Irani and Tamil-language star R. Madhavan, who were both recently seen in the Aamir Khan hit 3 Idiots.

India's first Miss Universe Sushmita Sen and action-comedy hero Ajay Devgan also star in the film, which hits screens on Friday. Kingsley's role "is very crucial in the film and he is not playing a cameo," said Yadav, who has described the movie as more about the risky decisions people make than actual gambling, which is illegal in most of India.

"I always wanted an international star to play the role of Perci in my film and I knew there was no one else who could give justice to the film except Sir Ben Kingsley. I am happy that I got him on board," she added.

Kingsley, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, is a household name in India because of his depiction of the country's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, which won him the Best Actor award in the 1982 Oscars.

The film is played on Indian Independence Day every year. Kingsley, whose huge body of work includes the Oscar-winning Schindler's List, has been back to India to promote the film, earning plaudits for his professionalism from co-stars.

Bachchan has called him a "wonderful human being," a "considerate and well-prepared actor and also a gracious man". Kingsley -- born Krishna Bhanji to a British mother and Indian-origin father -- has said his love for India is "as strong as ever".

"I am still connected to Gandhi. It's a recognition. It's something indelible and extraordinary in my bones," he told reporters at the International Film Festival of India last December.

Kingsley is set to play the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the film Taj, about his project to build the Taj Mahal mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz, with shooting scheduled to start later this year.

He is the latest foreign star to appear in a Bollywood movie, as the Hindi-language film industry seeks new audiences overseas and Hollywood increasingly looks for tie-ups with Indian studios.

Yadav said she had "no idea" why Bollywood had not approached Kingsley before and indicated that future appearances by global cinema stars in Indian films were likely.

"I sent my script to his agent and he... loved it. He immediately agreed to do the role," she said.

"I feel the world has become a small place and it is not difficult these days to approach agents of Hollywood or international actors."