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The Chess Players (1977)
"Shatranj Ke Khilari" (original title)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,624 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 22 critic

Wazed Ali Shah is the ruler of one of the last independent kingdoms of India. The British, intent on controlling this rich country, have sent general Outram on a secret mission to clear the... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sanjeev Kumar ...
Mirza Sajjad Ali
...
Mir Roshan Ali
...
Khurshid, Mirza's wife
Farida Jalal ...
Nafisa, Mir's wife
Veena ...
Queen Mother
David Abraham ...
Munshi
...
Prime Minister (as Victor Bannerji)
Farooq Shaikh ...
Aqueel (as Farooque Shaikh)
Tom Alter ...
Capt. Weston (Outram's aide de camp)
Leela Mishra ...
Hirya, Khurshid's maid
Barry John
Samarth Narain ...
Kallu
Bhudo Advani ...
Abbajani (as Budho Advani)
Kamu Mukherjee ...
(as Kamu Mukherji)
Uttamram Nagar
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Storyline

Wazed Ali Shah is the ruler of one of the last independent kingdoms of India. The British, intent on controlling this rich country, have sent general Outram on a secret mission to clear the way for an annexation. While pressure is mounting amidst intrigue and political manoeuvres, Ali Shah composes poems and listens to music, secluded in his palace. The court is of no help, as exemplified by nobles Mir and Mirza, who, ignoring the situation of their country and all their duties towards their families, spend their days playing endless parties of chess. Written by Eduardo Casais <eduardo.casais@research.nokia.com>

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Comedy | Drama | History

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Release Date:

3 October 1977 (India)  »

Also Known As:

Shatranj Ke Khilari  »

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User Reviews

A rare film to treasure
14 September 2007 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Legendary Bengali director Ray's only film in Urdu, Shatranj Ki Khiladi or The Chess Players, looks at the denouement of Indian Muslim power in the 1850's, focusing on the northern state of Oudh, also known as Awadh, prior to the epochal 1857 'Mutiny'.

The film contains two narratives. One narrative focuses on the political machinations of the bullish, pragmatic representative of the British, General Outram, played capably by Richard Attenborough, and the diffident response of the cultured but cloud-headed Indian Muslim King of Oudh, played with great feeling by Amjad Khan.

The other narrative shifts focus to the tragi-comic situation of two well-born Indian Muslim gentlemen, played by the always-wonderful Saeed Jafarey and Sanjeev Kumar, and their obsession with a game of chess, leading them to neglect the momentous tide of history which is about to sweep over them. Indeed, not only is chess a metaphor for the power struggle between Indian and British, but the two chess players' family situations are too, with both men locked into domestic struggles with their wives, the haughty, beautiful Khurshid, played with characteristic commitment by Shabana Azmi and the lascivious, lying Nafisa, well-played by Farida Jalal.

The twin approach is useful and well integrated, and there is even some humorous animation. Ray brings his characteristic eye for ravishing beauty, balanced with his close, sympathetic interest in humanity, particularly when under pressure, and a real feeling for the period. Also typical is the universality of the director's humanitarian outlook, with the nominally Hindu Ray studying Muslims and the British with the same warm but clear-eyed assiduousness.

Overall, this is a film, like all of Ray's films, to treasure, not only for a person of Indian ancestry such as myself.


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