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The Chess Players

Directed by Satyajit Ray
1977
India
129 minutes
All Ages
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Ray’s biggest hit and only Hindi-language feature is a visually radiant, star-studded political satire set in North India just before the Rebellion of 1857.
Bollywood stars Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey play two comically lazy and entitled nawabs who care only about chess. Fixated on their games, they are seemingly unconcerned with their deteriorating marriages – not to mention the imminent British takeover of their province. Lively banter and slapstick antics thinly disguise this biting commentary on the landlord class in the colonial era. The film was Ray’s most commercially successful and his biggest-budgeted production. Compared to his naturalistic black-and-white classics, it features a sumptuous colour palette and fabulous production design. Richard Attenborough co-stars as a pompous British general. Amitabh Bachchan lends his voice to the role of narrator.

35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
The Chess Players emphasises what is unique about the Indian experience under British colonialism rather than what is universal.
Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice
Watching it is like being witness to a formal ceremony. One admires the costumes, the perfectly picked-up cues, the elegance of the principals, the complicated footwork, the manner in which an entire civilisation has been encapsulated in a few particular gestures.
Vincent Canby, New York Times

Tickets

Sun 19 Jun
1:15pm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Past Event Cancel
Program Strand
Ray Retrospective
Original Title
Shatranj Ke Khilari
Year
1977
Classification
All Ages
Country
India
Language
In English, Urdu and Hindi with English subtitles
Director
Satyajit Ray
Producer
Suresh Jindal
Cast
Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi
Screenwriter
Satyajit Ray, Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqui
Cinematographer
Soumendu Roy
Editor
Dulal Dutta
Genre
Festival Award Winners, Cinephile, Religion & Belief, Retrospective, Indian subcontinent
Company Credits
Suresh Jindal 35mm print courtesy of the Packard Humanities Foundation at the Academy Film Archive
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