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The Chess Players (Shatranj ke Khilari)

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Sunday, Aug 31, 2008
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The Chess Players1977, India, Satyajit Ray

Once again a Ray adaptation of a Munshi Premchand short-story. A big budget film (by Ray standards), this is the story of the British annexation of Lucknow in 1856. Being Ray there are no nationalist tirades (a la Manoj Kumar) against the British or easy condemnation of the victim, the weak decadent native ruler, the nawab of Oudh. Instead we get a nuanced, contemplative, though unsparing view of the clash of two cultures – one effete and ineffectual and the other, vigorous and malignant. Historical events are seen as the background to the chess obsession of two Lucknow aristocrats, who ignore the plight of their ruler, and leave their city to continue their games undisturbed. A funny and ultimately profound film.

For more details, see tt0076696 on The Internet Movie Database.

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