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Bollywood’s incredibly busy schedule has seen story writers explore just about every genre and theme under the sun. Since the 1970s, the masala film genre – a free mixing of the likes of drama, action, comedy, and musical – has been the most popular, but among all genres is the use of storytelling themes, one of which is gambling. On the face of it, gambling could be a shallow theme to use, and yet the expansive way in which it’s been applied from Bollywood movies over the years has perfectly demonstrated its potential range.

Here are some of the best Bollywood movies which have delved into the theme and how they’ve drawn from its unique perspective differently to empower the story at hand.

To demonstrate intellect

The most notable use of gambling in a Bollywood movie, based on its importance to the plot, is in the Leena Yadav-directed thriller. The Hindi-language movie stars Amitabh Bachchan, Ben Kingsley, and Madhavan; the story follows Bachchan’s character (Venkat) in his pursuit of perfecting his thesis on probability. He utilizes the card game of Teen Patti for his mathematical workings, delving deeper into the gambling side in the quest for further findings for his research.

The use of the theme in Teen Patti mirrors one of a general two types of casino-goer. There are those who seek to test their luck on randomized games like roulette or the slots. Then, there are the skill-based players who go to sites like Genesis Casino in India to use their minds to take on the live versions of table games like poker, blackjack, and casino hold’em – games which require knowledge and skill. The activity has an inset theme that portrays characters that are successful in these games as being incredibly smart and sophisticated, as it does in Teen Patti.

Using gambling to facilitate character development

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In 2010, Striker made headlines as the first Bollywood movie to premiere on YouTube, per the Indian Express, but it also relays a classic format of the gambling theme. The protagonist, played by Siddharth Narayan, starts in a low-income family, but having mastered the game of carrom, he finds a way to the top and to take down the local crime boss who had tormented his family. Having learned the game as a kid, the hero finds that reconnecting with his roots was the best way to overcome the obstacles and complete his underdog arc.

Jannat further expands the uses of the theme in Indian cinema. The crime romance movie is primarily driven by Emraan Hashmi’s character, Arjun, falling for Zoya (played by Sonal Chauhan). Still, one of the key elements of his efforts is him striking it lucky. The street-smart Arjun regularly finds a way to make some quick cash, starting off in card games but then finding his wealth in bookmaking – impressing Zoya in doing so. Where Teen Patti showcased intellect through card gaming, Striker uses it to show off the character’s wit and quick-thinking, working as the base for his development into the deeper world of gambling.

The gambling theme doesn’t just have to be about someone getting lucky in a casino and reeling in a bunch of chips – likely losing them shortly after. In Bollywood movies, the likes of Teen Patti, Striker, and Jannat combine to show the potential expanse of the theme in big-screen storytelling.