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The Great Gambler (Sabse Bada Zuari)

Indian classic combined traditional cinematic practices and laid the foundations of casino culture in Asian cinema - available now on Amazon Prime

Over the years, numerous casino-themed productions have come to the forefront, particularly in Asian cinema. During the past few decades, the continent’s film industry has gone from strength to strength. It’s a testament to the region’s role in the global market that, as per figures from Statista, China accounts for 21.7% of the worldwide box office share, while India’s movie sector is forecast to grow by 196% by 2022.

The reasoning behind Asia’s progression lies in genre diversity and the foundations laid by old films, such as The Great Gambler. The title hit the big screens in 1979 and is regarded as a must-watch casino film within Asian cinema. So, why is the production worth just under three hours of your time?

Although not the first gambling-inspired title to hit the Asian market, The Great Gambler sought to build on the earlier success of a fellow casino-themed film, Gambler (Amarjeet, 1971) . In 1979, the much-loved and highly-rated director Shakti Samanta was at the forefront of combining betting excitement with the Bollywood industry. Throughout his career, Samanta received numerous awards for his contributions to the Asian film sector, including the Filmfare Awards’ Best Film for Aradhana, Anuraag, and Amanush.

Although The Great Gambler didn’t break any records or win any awards, it undoubtedly solidified the position of gambling-oriented titles within the Asian film industry. Regarding its plot, the 1979 production followed various groups in their efforts to uncover secret operations. Within the film, Jai – who is played by Amitabh Bachchan – is an unbeaten gambler who obtains military secrets through his betting skills, according to IMDB.

After the success of The Great Gambler, a host of Bollywood casino movies followed. During the 2010s, Striker (Chandan Arora, 2010), Teen Patti (Leena Yadav, 2010), and The Great Indian Casino (Rupesh Paul/ Dev Rathee, 2019) were released, each of which added more depth to Asia’s ever-growing gambling-related genre.

Since its release, the Samanta-directed title has received a lot of praise for its use of doppelgangers. The term, which means double walker in German, has recently become increasingly common within cinema, embodying the “harbinger of doom”, according to the BBC. This is evident within the 1979 title, which sees Jai pursued by a lookalike police officer.

The title’s visible use of traditional casino games also played a pivotal role in enhancing the film’s dramatic feel. During The Great Gambler’s trailer, Jai is pictured standing in front of a roulette table. The integration of roulette was a stroke of genius. At Mr Green’s live casino, users can enjoy an array of real-time games that utilize live-streaming technology. One of the available options is live roulette, which is a go-to choice among players. With live dealers – and from the comfort of their own homes – gamers can digitally put themselves in the shoes of Jai.

If you haven’t already, then consider giving up a few hours of your time to watch The Great Gambler. The Indian classic is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

By Linda Marric - 24-02-2021

Linda Marric is a freelance film journalist and interviewer. She has written extensively about film over the last decade. After graduating with a degree in Film Studies from King’s College Londo...

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