The Chess Players (film)
|Shatranj Ke Khilari|
|Directed by||Satyajit Ray|
|Produced by||Suresh Jindal|
|Screenplay by||Satyajit Ray|
|Based on||Shatranj ke khiladi, a short story
by Munshi Premchand
|Narrated by||Amitabh Bachchan|
|Music by||Satyajit Ray|
|Edited by||Dulal Dutta|
|March 11, 1977|
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.
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 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.
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."
- Sanjeev Kumar as Mirza Sajjad Ali
- Saeed Jaffrey as Mir Roshan Ali
- Shabana Azmi as Khurshid, Mirza's wife
- Richard Attenborough as General James Outram
- Farida Jalal as Nafisa, Mir's wife
- Amjad Khan as Wajid Ali Shah
- David Abraham as Munshi Nandlal
- Victor Banerjee as Prime Minister
- Farooq Sheikh as Aqueel
- Tom Alter as Captain Weston, Outram's aide de camp
- Leela Mishra as Hirya, Khurshid's maid
- Samarth Narain as Kallu
- Bhudo Advani as Abbajani
- List of submissions to the 51st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Indian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Andrew Robinson, "Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players", History Today, July 2007
- The Chess Players at the Internet Movie Database
- "Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)". Satyajit Ray official site. Retrieved 24 April 2009.
- "The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khilari) - Chess and Movies". TuskerChess site. Retrieved 29 December 2013.