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The Chess Players

Directed by Satyajit Ray
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


Sun 19 Jun
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Past Event Cancel
Program Strand
Ray Retrospective
Original Title
Shatranj Ke Khilari
All Ages
In English, Urdu and Hindi with English subtitles
Satyajit Ray
Suresh Jindal
Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi
Satyajit Ray, Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqui
Soumendu Roy
Dulal Dutta
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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