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The Chess Players (1977)

Shatranj Ke Khilari (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, History | 3 October 1977 (India)
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 »



(story) (as Premchand), (dialogue) | 3 more credits »

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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


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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »




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Release Date:

3 October 1977 (India)  »

Also Known As:

O Jogador de Xadrez  »

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Satyajit ray's only hindi film. See more »


Featured in Celluloid Man (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

Another Ray classic !!
11 August 2006 | by (India) – See all my reviews

Shatranj Ke Khilari is the first Hindi film by who is undoubtedly the best film-maker India has ever had. Satyajit Ray made this movie in 1977, having established his reputation worldwide as an ace director with his Bengali art pieces.

Based in mid 19th century, this is an account of the British annexation of one of the last independent kingdoms of India, Awadh. The British, by that year, have quite a firm hold on the subcontinent and are keen to swallow down everything that has not yet been under their direct control. So the East India Company and its representative General Outram decide that it was time for the ruling king, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to step down from his throne.

Wajid Ali Shah, the king, is that only by name. He is an indifferent ruler whose days and nights are occupied not with the affairs of state, but the artistic charms of music, poetry and dance. He is a ruler who finds it convenient to leave the important matters regarding his kingdom to his subordinates, while he indulges in life's countless pleasures. Inevitably, the British, sensing a weak king, are tempted to take over the control of the province.

Meanwhile, two of the king's friends, Mirza Sajid Ali and Mir Roshan Ali are busy satisfying their own personal urges. In a time when the king needs their help desperately, they engage all day in the old Indian game of Chess. Oblivious and indifferent to what is happening to Lucknow and their own private household, these chess-crazy men spend days challenging each other to games of a sport played with soldiers which are not real, but wooden pieces which move on a small 64-squared board. Their inconsequential moves on that board act as a substitute to the possible resistance they could have shown to the British takeover.

It is extremely difficult to find flaws in such a movie. As with all Ray movies, this movie doesn't have too much of a storyline to boast about. This is just a beautiful account which epitomizes the kind of inactivity and submission our country had sunk into in those times. The acting is, as expected, spotless. Everyone has done his part to perfection. The direction and camera-work are as good as any other Ray movie. The dialogues are as precise as we have got from movies like Umrao Jaan or Mughal-E-Azam. Each and every line spoken is worth listening to again and again. As an added attraction, Amitabh Bachchan has lent his voice for the narration, which is something he has done quite well.

The pace of the movie being slow, it is of course not everyone's cup of tea. But this movie is a must-watch for its brilliant acting and direction. And no other form of art can possibly be more expressive of the Indian mentality back in the 19th century.

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