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The Chess Players
The Chess Players
Actors: Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Farida Jalal, Veena
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
NR     2006     2hr 9min

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 04/18/2006 Run time: 115 minutes


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Movie Details

Actors: Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Farida Jalal, Veena
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/18/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1977
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1977
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 9min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Hindi, Urdu
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A clever, comic but cutting satire on imperialism and cultur
Azad | 06/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Ray's "The Chess Players" is his only film in Hindi/Urdu and is a masterful portrayal of one of the key moments in modern Indian history - where history's largest multinational corporation - the East India Company - is set to take over governance over the province of Awadh, ultimately sparking rebellion and the beginnings of the British Raj that would last until 1947. Ray's film is unique in so far as it exposes the decadence and complacency of the Indian elite - magnificently embodied by Jaffrey and Kumar and Khan as the Nawaab - at a time when British designs on India should have been apparent. The elite spent its time smoking hookahs, playing chess, composing poetry and operas oblivious to the creeping British authority that would ultimately wipe it away. The analogy or metaphor throughout is that of the chess-board, whereby the British have ultimately "checked" their Indian subjects without the latter even having realized. The performances are excellent; the screenplay, in classical Urdu is exquisite and the message - that countries colonized ultimately must share some of the blame for their fate - provides plenty food for thought."
A realistic and human story out of India's past
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 11/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Written and directed by internationally acclaimed Indian filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, "The Chess Players" is an award-winning film which would appeal to an international audience for its historic content blended with human drama and touches of humour and irony. Unlike most Indian films known as `Bollywood', this film has none of the usual features of the popular musicals, and in fact, adds a few of its own unique touches such as comical animation to explain the historic setting of the story. Although there is a brief song and dance scene, it is part of a performance given to the king, and the only touch of Bollywood is the narrator, `Mr Bollywood' himself, Amitabh Bachchan. His narration explains the situation in India in 1856 when the British East India Company encroached on the last bastion of Indian rulership, but far from being an exciting, action-packed thrilling war movie, "The Chess Players" tells a more realistic story about attitudes, cultures and the personal lives of a few people caught up in the changing tide of events. The chess players are two friends who are so preoccupied with playing chess all day that they neglect their family responsibilities and are unperturbed by the British plans to take over their city. Even the Indian ruler himself prefers to compose songs and poems, fly kites and be entertained by his harem rather than attend to the affairs of state, and no doubt this film is something of a social statement as well as a history lesson. But rather than a dry and dull historic epic, Ray has managed to tell the whole story through the two main characters, the chess players, often with a tongue-in-cheek humour which makes the film highly enjoyable. Although realistic, there is still an elegant and artistic style overall, and "The Chess Players" is also visually impressive, with colourful authentic costumes of the period, real Mogul buildings and palaces, as well as characters speaking their own languages. There are several scenes with English, and easy-to-follow English subtitles when locals are speaking Hindi or Urdu. Very authentic, traditional Indian music is also heard at times in the background, adding to the overall realistic atmosphere of this period film. There is no great, thrilling climax, suspense or attempts to overly entertain except perhaps with the subtle comedy about realistic events and human relationships, and perhaps this very feature of being down-to-earth makes "The Chess Players" a welcome change from either Bollywood or Hollywood, and although it was filmed in 1977, it is still fresh and even timeless due to its subject matter and first class performances by the fine actors, one of whom is Sir Richard Attenborough as the British General. For an authentic, good dose of real India and its glorious royal history (albeit in decline), this film is hard to beat.
The Chess Players
John Farr | 07/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ray's light but lacerating satire of upper-class decadence and the bigoted hubris of British traders in colonial India places a metaphorical stake right in the middle of a chess board: Kumar and Jaffrey's childish need to reenact endless war schemes with a board game while ignoring the real world highlights their ineffectuality as "noble" men. And as the British attempt to checkmate the flaky king, even open-minded, Hindi-speaking Captain Weston (Tom Halter) forfeits his conscience to buy in to the new regime. Sumptuous costumes, elaborate set design, and one mesmerizing, dervish-like dance sequence make Ray's "Chess Players" worth capturing."
J. MOLDOVAN | 03/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This has always been one of my favourite films. I love almost everything from Satajit Ray but this is probably his best.

One of the most appealing feature of the movie is the language. On personal preference only, I classify Hindi/Urdu as one of the more beautiful, musical languages of the world and the dialog in this film is pure pleasure to listen to.

The only problem, which cost a star, is that my copy of the DVD is not very well produced. It's not actually faulty but this film demands lavish colour and sound which has not been captured. (On this same note, I have a copy of Dersu Uzala from the same outfit--Kino--and it's a shocker.)

So with this one caveat I recommend the movie to anyone who loves sumptuous cinema from a deep and strikingly beautiful culture, produced by one of the great masters of the medium.