Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Shatranj Ke Khilari
India, 1977. Devki Chitra. Screenplay by Satyajit Ray, dialogue by Satyajit Ray, Javed Siddiqui, Shama Zaidi, from a story by Munshi Premchand. Cinematography by Soumendu Roy. Produced by Suresh Jindal. Music by Satyajit Ray. Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta. Costume Design by Haru Das, Shama Zaidi. Film Editing by Dulal Dutta. Toronto International Film Festival 1977.
The principality of Oudh stands alone in 19th century India for having avoided British rule following the creation of a long-standing treaty that is now under threat. General Outram (Richard Attenborough) seeks to add to his exploits by putting the land under his control, and director Satyajit Ray laments on just how easy this is to accomplish. While the King remains secluded in his palace enjoying the comforts of his throne, two Generals represent the leading citizens of the country by avoiding all matter of serious political involvement and obsessing over daily games of chess. Not one to point fingers, Ray tells this gorgeously wrought story with healthy doses of humour and pathos, eliciting exquisite performances from the entire cast and photographing it with his usual mesmerizing beauty. Like many of his later films, the pace is somewhat sluggish, mired down in scenes of seemingly endless dialogue, but it is intelligent dialogue that you’ll get much out of if you’re in the right frame of mind. Another example of how Ray is one of cinema history’s most skilled artists.