The Chess Players (film)

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Shatranj Ke Khilari
Chess players.jpg
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Produced by Suresh Jindal
Screenplay by Satyajit Ray
Based on Shatranj ke khiladi, a short story
by Munshi Premchand
Starring Sanjeev Kumar
Saeed Jaffrey
Shabana Azmi
Richard Attenborough
Farida Jalal
Amjad Khan
David Abraham
Victor Banerjee
Farooq Shaikh
Tom Alter
Leela Mishra
Samarth Narain
Bhudo Advani
Narrated by Amitabh Bachchan
Music by Satyajit Ray
Cinematography Soumendu Roy
Edited by Dulal Dutta
Release date
March 11, 1977
Running time
129 minutes
Country India
Language Hindi
Urdu
English
Budget 2,000,000[1]

Shatranj Ke Khiladi (Hindi: शतरंज के खिलाड़ी; The Chess Players) is a 1977 Indian film by Bengali director Satyajit Ray, based on Munshi Premchand's short story of the same name. Amjad Khan plays the role of Wajid Ali Shah, King of Awadh, and Richard Attenborough plays the role of General James Outram. The film also features the actors Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, David Abraham and Tom Alter.

Summary[edit]

The film is set in 1856 on the eve of the Indian rebellion of 1857. The British are about to annex the Indian State of Awadh (also spelt Oudh). The daily life of two wealthy men who are devoted to chess is presented against the background of scheming officials of the British East India Company, the history of its relations with the Indian ruler of Awadh, and the ruler's devotion both to his religious practice and the pursuit of pleasure.

The Chess Players employed stars of the Bombay cinema (Amjad Khan, Shabana Azmi and Amitabh Bachchan as a narrator) together with ethnic European actors such as Richard Attenborough.

It was India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 51st Academy Awards, but did not receive a nomination.[2]

Plot[edit]

The film shows in parallel the historical drama of the Indian kingdom Awadh (whose capital is Lucknow) and its Muslim Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who is overthrown by the British, alongside the story of two noblemen who are obsessed with shatranj, an ancient form of chess.[3]

Satyajit Ray portrays the Nawab as an extravagant but sympathetic figure. He is an artist and poet, no longer in command of events and unable to effectively oppose the British demand for his throne. Parallel to this wider drama is the personal (and sometimes humorous) tale of two rich noblemen of this kingdom, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali. Inseparable friends, the two nobles became passionately obsessed with the game of shatranj (chess), neglecting his (Mirza Sajjid Ali) wife and failing to act against the real-life seizure of their kingdom by the East India Company. Instead, the two nobles abandon their families and responsibilities, fleeing from Lucknow to play chess in village exile untroubled by greater events. Ray's basic theme in the film is the message that the detachment of India's ruling classes assisted a small number of British officials and soldiers to take over Awadh without opposition.

The role of Captain Weston, so British in his ways, but in love with Urdu poetry, is also worth noting.

In the last scene, after which Mir shoots at Mirza and complains out loud "I won't have a partner to play chess with", Mirza responds to him "but you have one in front of you!" (thus making him understand that he forgives him). He finally concludes that "after nightfall, we will go back home. We both need darkness to hide our faces."

Cast[edit]

Other credits[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)". Satyajit Ray official site. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  3. ^ "watchhindimovies4free.com". 

References[edit]

  • Andrew Robinson, "Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players", History Today, July 2007

External links[edit]