Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Player) 
Shatranj Ke Khiladi, loosely adapted from a short story by Munshi Premchand, was the sole movie made by Satyajit Ray in Hindi. Set a year prior to the 1856 Sepoy Mutiny, this beautifully crafted film is a mild satire on the then-existing social structure and mores, and a bemused observation on what could be construed as a microcosmic representation of the events that led to the massive uprising. The movie has two parallel strands. On one hand we have Mirza Sajjad Ali (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mir Roshan Ali (Saeed Jaffrey), two noblemen obsessed with the game of chess and oblivious to the socio-political changes taking place around them, while on the other we have Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan), the ruler of Awadh, who is more inclined towards the pursuit of arts than matters of administration – which conveniently forms the basis for General Outram (Richard Attenborough) to push for the annexation of the kingdom. The three Indian characters are bound by a common string – their grandiose proclamations of courage and justifying their faux-sense of bravery through illustrations of their long-dead forefathers, and yet at the end of the day acquiescing and continuing in their states of stupor by taking shelters in their intellectual/aesthetic delving. The nuanced performances of the cast was complemented by the captivating voice-over provided by Amitabh Bachchan – the narrator doesn’t just provide us with excellent facts, but also amused reactions at the tragi-comic chain of events. Ray marvelously captured the ennui, idiosyncrasies and elegance of Lucknow’s famed erstwhile elites, noblemen and kings through this charming and delightful audio-visual feast.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Genre: Social Satire/Comedy of Manners/Historical Drama