The Matka King (Vijay Varma as Ratan Khatri): A Journey from Reality to Fiction

The world of gambling has always fascinated people, providing an adrenaline rush and the promise of quick riches. Among the various forms of gambling, the matka game holds a unique and storied place in Indian history. This traditional lottery-style betting game, which rose to prominence in the 1960s, is now making a significant cultural comeback through a new web series titled Matka King. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, the Amazon Prime Video series stars Vijay Varma in the titular role, bringing the intriguing tale of matka gambling to a modern audience. The series is inspired by the real-life exploits of Ratan Khatri, the original Matka King, who turned this game into a nationwide phenomenon.

The Real Matka King: Ratan Khatri

Ratan Khatri, a name synonymous with matka gambling, played a pivotal role in transforming this game into a lucrative and widespread network. Born into a Sindhi family, Khatri moved to India from Karachi during the tumultuous period of the 1947 partition. His journey from a displaced teenager to the kingpin of India’s gambling scene is nothing short of remarkable.

Initially, matka gambling involved betting on the daily opening and closing rates of cotton traded on the New York Cotton Exchange. This concept was introduced to India by Kalyanji Bhagat, who ran the famous Worli Matka. Khatri, who started working under Bhagat, quickly saw the potential to innovate and expand the game. He eventually branched out independently, establishing Ratan Matka, and became a legend in his own right. Known for drawing playing cards instead of slips, Khatri’s version of the game added a new layer of excitement and unpredictability.

Matka Gambling: From Cotton Rates to Playing Cards

Matka gambling has its roots in the trading of cotton. Initially, bettors would wager on the opening and closing rates of cotton as announced by the New York Cotton Exchange. These numbers were then transmitted to the Bombay Cotton Exchange, where local bettors would place their bets. However, this system was replaced in the 1960s with a more indigenous method of generating random numbers. The new system involved pulling slips from a matka (an earthen pot), giving the game its name.

Ratan Khatri’s innovation of using playing cards to determine the winning numbers added a glamorous and thrilling edge to the game. This method not only democratized the game, making it accessible to a broader audience, but also increased its appeal. Khatri’s matka gambling network quickly spread across India, drawing in participants from all walks of life, including celebrities and dignitaries.

The Rise and Fall of Ratan Khatri

Khatri’s reign as the Matka King was marked by both immense success and controversy. His gambling empire flourished for decades, making him a household name. However, his activities also attracted the attention of law enforcement. During the Emergency in the mid-1970s, Khatri was jailed for 19 months, which significantly impacted his operations. Despite this setback, his legacy endured, with matka gambling continuing to thrive.

In the early 1990s, Khatri decided to retire from the gambling business. He lived out his remaining years away from the limelight, passing away in 2020. His story remains a testament to the allure and risks of the gambling world, a complex narrative of ambition, ingenuity, and controversy.

Matka King: From Reality to Reel

The new Amazon Prime Video series Matka King, directed by Nagraj Manjule, promises to bring the fascinating world of matka gambling to life. Manjule, known for his critically acclaimed films Sairat and Fandry, has teamed up with writer Abhay Koranne to craft a fictional tale inspired by the real-life exploits of Ratan Khatri.

Vijay Varma, who has made a name for himself with powerful performances in films like Gully Boy and web series like Mirzapur, takes on the role of the titular character. In a recent Instagram post, Varma shared his excitement about the project, revealing a poster that shows him in a retro look, throwing playing cards at the camera. The caption read, “Ready to place our bet! #MatkaKingOnPrime soon but filming now.”

The Series Synopsis

Matka King is set in 1960s Mumbai, a time when the city was undergoing rapid transformation. The series follows an enterprising cotton trader who craves legitimacy and respect. In his quest to make a name for himself, he starts a new gambling game dubbed matka. The game quickly takes the city by storm, democratizing a terrain previously reserved for the rich and elite.

The series promises to delve into the socio-economic landscape of 1960s Mumbai, exploring the intersections of ambition, legality, and morality. It aims to portray the impact of matka gambling on various strata of society, from the downtrodden to the affluent, showcasing how this game became a great equalizer in a deeply divided city.

A Stellar Cast and Crew

Matka King boasts an impressive ensemble cast, with Vijay Varma leading the pack. The series also features Kritika Kamra, Sai Tamhankar, Gulshan Grover, and Siddharth Jadhav in pivotal roles. This diverse and talented group of actors is expected to bring depth and authenticity to the characters, making the narrative even more compelling.

Behind the scenes, the series is produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur and Nagraj Manjule, along with Gargi Kulkarni, Ashish Aryan, and Ashwini Sidwani, under the banner of Roy Kapur Films. The collaboration between these seasoned filmmakers and producers is likely to result in a high-quality production that does justice to the intriguing story of matka gambling.

The Cultural Impact of Matka Gambling

Matka gambling is not just a game; it is a cultural phenomenon that has left a lasting impact on Indian society. During its heyday, matka provided a source of livelihood for many people, from the bettors to the bookies and the numerous intermediaries involved. It also became a part of Mumbai’s urban folklore, with stories of big wins and dramatic losses becoming part of the city’s narrative.

The game’s ability to transcend social and economic barriers made it particularly significant. In a city marked by stark contrasts between wealth and poverty, matka offered a common ground where anyone could participate and potentially win big. This aspect of the game is likely to be a focal point in the Matka King series, highlighting its role in shaping the social dynamics of the time.

Comparisons with Other Media Portrayals

While Matka King is poised to be a significant addition to the portrayal of gambling in Indian media, it is not the first attempt to depict this world. Another upcoming project is the Telugu film Matka, directed by Karuna Kumar and starring Varun Tej. Set between the 1950s and 1980s, the film is based on real incidents that rocked the nation, although the makers have denied that it is directly based on Ratan Khatri’s life.

The simultaneous development of these two projects indicates a renewed interest in the theme of gambling and its socio-economic implications. It will be interesting to see how each project interprets and presents the complexities of this world, and how they resonate with contemporary audiences.


The story of matka gambling is a fascinating chapter in India’s cultural and social history. From its origins in the cotton markets to its evolution into a nationwide phenomenon under the aegis of Ratan Khatri, matka has left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness. The upcoming web series Matka King promises to capture this rich history, offering a fictionalized yet insightful look into the world of matka gambling.

With Nagraj Manjule at the helm and Vijay Varma in the lead role, the series is set to be a compelling exploration of ambition, power, and the human spirit. As it brings the story of the Matka King to a new generation, it will undoubtedly shed light on the intriguing and often controversial world of gambling, making it a must-watch for audiences both old and new.

Gaurav Manral

I am from nainital, Uttrakhand, India and like to write different type of entertainment news like bollywood, Hollywood, South Indian movies, Life Style etc.