The Chess Players PG (Shatranj Ke Khiladi)

Director: Satyajit Ray 1977

A seminal piece of Indian cinema, The Chess Players looks at the dynamics at play at the time of the annexation of Awadh (or Oudh) during the 1857 Rebellion; it focuseson the actions of two chess-obsessed noblemen, Mir (Jaffrey) and Mirza (Kumar). The juxtaposition of their interest in a game of strategy with their ineffectiveness in real-world politics is a scathing commentary on elitism and classism in India as much as it is a critique of British colonial policy.

The film is implicitly political and Ray's subtle use of chess as a metaphor parallels the cunning moves by the British to capture the king.

Programmed in partnership with The University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections as part of the exhibition, Threads of Empire: Resistance and Rule in Colonial India c.1740-1840.