January 9, 2009

Shatranj Ke Khilari

Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) 1977

Year - 1977
Producer - Devki Chitra Productions (Suresh Jindal)
Screenplay - Satyajit Ray
Based on - The short story Shatranj Ke Khilari by Premchand
Dialogue - Satyajit Ray, Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqi
Photography - Soumendu Roy
Editor - Dulal Dutta
Art Director - Bansi Chandragupta & Ashoke Bose (Assistant)
Costumes - Shama Zaidi
Music - Satyajit Ray
Sound - Narinder Singh, Samir Majumdar
Choreography - Birju Maharaj
Animation - Ram Mohan
Length - 113 min.
Print - Color

Mirza Sajjad Ali - Sanjeev Kumar
Mir Roshan Ali - Saeed Jaffrey
Wajid Ali Shah - Amjad Khan
General Outtram - Richard Attenborough
Captain Weston - Tom Alter
Khurshid, Mirza's wife - Shabana Azmi
Ali Naqi Khan - Victor Bannerjee
Nafeesa - Farida Jalal
Aulea Begum, queen mother - Veena
Munshi Nandlal - David Abraham
Aquil - Farooq Saikh
Hiria - Leela Mishra
Dr. Joseph Fayrer - Barry John
Kalloo - Samarth Narain
Imtaiz Hussain - Budho Advani
Bookie - Kamu Mukherjee

The action takes place in 1856, in Lucknow, capital of the moslem kingdom of Oudh. The king is Wajid Ali Shah, who prefers to devote himself to the pleasures of art instead of submitting to the subterfuges and stakes of politics. He dedicates his time, sequestered in his palace, to poetry and to recitals of music and dance. The English Company of India, which is strengthening its grip on the country (in 1858 the British crown would directly take over control of the government), charges general Outtram with dethroning the king, who eventually abdicates without a fight. Parallel to this, two aristocrats ravenously indulge their passion for chess while neglecting everything else, beginning with their respective wives. We first see them playing chess in their houses, and they end up playing outdoors, without having noticed the historic changes ocurring under their noses.

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