Search - A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash) (1929) on DVD

A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash) (1929)
A Throw of Dice
Prapancha Pash
Actors: Seeta Devi, Himansu Rai, Charu Roy
Director: Franz Osten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
NR     2008     1hr 14min

The 1929 Silent Extravaganza From India with a New Orchestral Score by Nitin Sawhney. A lavish silent super-production comprising 10,000 extras, a thousand horses, and scores of elephants, A Throw of Dice is the climax of ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Seeta Devi, Himansu Rai, Charu Roy
Director: Franz Osten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Drama
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 07/15/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1929
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1929
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 14min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A beautiful Indian experience!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 07/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had been eagerly awaiting this new Kino release for over a year, ever since hearing about its successful screening in London, and also because it combines two of my favourite film genres: silent and Indian. It might surprise many in the West to know that India was also making its own films already in the mid 1910s just like the rest of the world, but due to lack of sufficient interest and funding, most of India's silent productions might never see the light of day again. This makes "A Throw of Dice" very special already, and its survival is mainly due to the collaboration with the German UFA and British film institutes. While there is no hint of the German Expressionist style which dominated German silent films in the 1920s, this film does benefit from some European skill and experience in film-making, resulting in quite a lavish and top-rate production. No doubt the most obvious and striking feature of "A Throw of Dice" is its realistic setting in India, complete with elephants, tigers, snakes and mogul palaces. The story is taken from classical Indian literature but feels very contemporary due to the timeless elements of romance, greed for power and plots by the evil, jealous rival to usurp the good king. The story moves along at a good and steady pace without a single dull moment, and the acting style of the Indian cast is quite natural and realistic.

Set in the past, much effort was put into the elaborate traditional costumes which grab the viewer's attention, as well as impressive scenes involving wild and dangerous animals and other fine details such as the Indian game with stick-like dice which can be rigged. Viewers familiar with, and fond of, Indian culture will not be disappointed, and those who have been to Udaipur in Rajasthan will recognize the setting and know that everything is authentic. With so much already going for it, a good story with some intrigues, twists and turns make this film stand out even more, and the perfect picture quality makes it visually delightful. The musical accompaniment deserves special mention because it also combines elements of traditional Indian music and the Western orchestral scores we are familiar with, making it perfectly suited to this particular film. The Indian musical sounds often add an airy and even surreal feeling to some scenes while also adding that extra exotic, Indian flavour to the film. The half-hour interview with Anglo-Indian composer Nitin Sawhney in the bonus features on this disc will enhance the viewer's appreciation of the music and how it is `the language of emotion' which he uses like a painter uses colours to express the mood of each scene. For a rare and special cinematic experience full of exotic overtones, and a sample of a good quality foreign silent film, "A Throw of Dice" should not be missed.
A Silent Indian-German Co-Production.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 07/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'm sure that most people (myself included) had no idea that an Indian cinema existed before the films of Satyajit Ray. A THROW OF DICE or PRAPANCHA PASH to give the film its Indian title was one of several films made by the team of German film director Franz Osten and Indian actor Himansu Rai (an earlier example of a Merchant-Ivory type collaboration). It was completed in 1929 right on the cusp of sound but is a bona fide silent. The story comes from the Indian epic THE MAHABARATA and tells of two kings, one good the other wicked, who vie for the hand of a beautiful woman. Producer Rai cast actor Rai as the wicked king and then he and director Osten made the film on an epic scale with plenty of extras, beautiful locations, and even lots of elephants. The film was successful at the time but with the coming of sound it was quickly forgotten.

The British Film Institute restored the film in 2006 and asked composer Nitin Sawhney to compose a new score for it. The work was premiered outdoors in London in 2007 and made quite an impression. Now Kino International and the BFI have released it on DVD for a wider audience to see. Filmed in sharp black and white with no color tints, THROW OF DICE looks great although you can tell that it's been conflated from at least a couple of prints. The new score by Sawhney is lavish and it sounds great. It's an East-West amalgam (mostly West) that on occasion I found at odds with what was going on during the film. I would have liked a more fully Indian sounding score to help keep me focused on what's happening and to keep me emotionally involved. There's a lengthy interview with the composer on the DVD and he explains his reasons for his choices. I understand them but the Hollywood portions of the score took me out of the movie and that's too bad. The beauty of a silent film though is you can turn down the volume and create your own soundtrack.

Despite my reservations concerning the new score, I found the film a joy to watch especially actress Seeta Devi who is classically beautiful. If you're a silent film buff then here's a real touch of the exotic. The Germans were interested in Indian settings for years during the silent era (Joe May's THE INDIAN TOMB for example) but this is the real thing. Another high quality release from Kino International who's been on quite a silent film roll this year (THREE'S A CROWD, THE EXTRA GIRL) with more good stuff (2 Victor Sjostrom films) just around the corner."
Indian Jewel Revisited
Alberto M. Barral | new york | 07/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is absolutely wonderful and a must see. It has such good paced action you bearely notice the time passing by, as the direction is seemless. It was shot in location in Rajasthan, the palace of Rajiv in what looks very close to the lake of Udaipur. The quality of the print is excellent and one can appreciate the details of the complex hindu architecture as well as the inlayed semi-precious stones in the walls of the Mughal-style pavillions.

The plot comes from the Maharabatta, an Indian ancient epic that resembles the western Illiad, but is largely adapted for modern/western taste. The movie is about two kings vying for the love of a hermit's daughter, cunniving, evil Sohan (Himansu Rai) and his cousin Rajit (Charu Roy)who is essentially a good king, but has a fatal attraction to gambling. They are both overwhelmed by the beautiful Sunita (Seeta Devi) who first appears walking out of her palatial straw hut, more like a luxurious pavillion than the humble dwelling of a hermit, attired for a coronation, with beautiful jewels and yards of magnificent silks, not to mention makeup that would stop a tiger on his tracks.

The two kings, Ranjit and Sohan are out hunting tigers, dressed to kill in silks embroidered with jewels that make one wish for technicolor. Someone may have gone blind to produce the clothes, but it was worth it.!
Their turbans are also about to collapse from the karat weight of the diamond sarpechs. They travel with a huge entourage that includes several elephants (even a baby one) and a veritable army of attendants. This is a scene straight out of De Mille's epics and a delight to watch as they advance in the jungle in pursuit of the tigers.

Sohan decides to use one of his trusted advisors to kill Rajit and make it look like an accident so he can inherit his kingdom. This scene is conducted with great subtlety of facial expression that conveys the gist of what he intends so well the intertitle is just a confirmation device. As Rajit approaches a tiger, the Sohan agent stabs him in the back with an arrow. They take the wounded king to the hermit (Sarada Gupta) to see if he can be saved from the wound, and it is there that Sunita sees Rajit and starts falling in love with him as her father slowly but surely saves his life.

Soon after Sohan and his entourage arrive on the scene and Sohan starts making aggressive advances to Sunita, he is also confident that Rajit will die as he knows the arrow was poisoned.
But Sunita's father is a great healer and he cures the king. During the convalescence Rajit has convinced Sugita to escape with him, a promise that he seals with a passionate kiss which must have definitively schocked Indian audiences that are not familiar with this display of affection even today! Small wonder the movie did not meet with success in India, though it was very successful in Germany.

After a convoluted story over the assasination of her father, and an unsuccessful attempt by Sohan to pass Rajit off as the assassin, Sunita is finally ready to marry Rajit, the ceremony is being prepared when Sohan arrives and offers Rajit a brand new set of Parcheesi, and a proposition for a game before the wedding is consumated. Needless to say, the dice are "charged" and since in the Indian version, dice are elongated in shape, they have a device at the top that Sohan uses to cheat Rajit of his kingdom and make him a slave after a few throws of the dice had made Rajit over-confident in his luck. In the epic story, Draupadi, the girl who is roughly the equivalent of Sunita is thoroughly humilated by finding out she has been gambled away by her husband and as she is stripped of her clothing the God Krishna intervenes to cover her shame, this is a popular theme for miniature painters through the ages (in the epic she actually marries the FIVE Pandava brothers which must have made her a very busy wife indeed) and here she is very depressed with the news, even if she is wearing a tiara that makes her look like a reigning empress. Before the day is over, a child discovers by accident the trickery of the dice and exposes the foul play, which quickly leads to the entire army going to rescue Rajit from his enslavement, the death of Sohan and a happy ending.

The movie is a collaboration between Himansu Rai (1892-1940), the actor who plays Sohan in this film, who was a founder of the famous studio "Bombay Talkies" and married the Indian movie Diva, Devika Rani, he also acted in the two other silent movies that he produced with Osten, "Light of Asia" and "Shiraz" AND Franz Osten (1876-1956), a German director who had gone to India several years before for their first project "The Light of India" (1925) which was also not successful with Indian or American audiences, but very successful in Germany . Both Osten and Rai were set on improving the quality of Indian cinema and they did three movies together, the other being a love story around the time of the construction of the Taj Mahal, "Shiraz" (1928) . Osten made many other movies in India through the 30's, including "Achhut Kanya" (Untouchable Maiden) (1936) which featured Devika Rani and launched teh career of Ashok Kumar, the first Indian male superstar and was an early blockbuster from the "Bombay Talkies" studio."