The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khiladi) (1978)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Based on a story by Munshi Premchand, and much influenced by Vsevolod Pudovkin's 1925 film Chess Fever, this satirical film by noted Indian director Satyajit Ray is set in colonial India in 1856. The British Resident of the East India Company (Richard Attenborough) has observed that the monarch of Lucknow, which is in his trading region, seems to be completely uninterested in government. He tries to arrange things so that he can annex the province. Embroiled in a long-running chess rivalry, two local noblemen (played by Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey) cannot be bothered with such minor issues as who is governing whom. Meanwhile, conditions in the kingdom go from bad to worse. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi
Art House & International , Drama
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Richard Attenborough
as Gen. Outram
Amjad Khan
as Nawab Wazed Ali Shah
Sanjeev Kumar
as Mirza Saljad Ali
Saeed Jaffrey
as Mir Roshan Ali
Shabana Azmi
as Mirza's Wife
Farida Jalal
as Mir's Wife
Victor Banerjee
as Prime Minister
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khiladi)

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (1)

Ray's film is an incisive dissection of culture shock and class privilege.

August 29, 2006
Village Voice
Top Critic

The uneven but elegantly told gentle historical film about conflicting cultures has its few moments of brilliance.

Full Review… | March 6, 2014
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Ray's movies are frequently something of an acquired taste, but it's a habit worth acquiring, as this specimen amply demonstrates.

Full Review… | October 24, 2007

The slow pace can make it tedious to watch at times, but for Ray, allowances should be made.

Full Review… | August 29, 2006

Ponderously allegorical and overlong, a major disappointment from director Ray.

Full Review… | August 29, 2006
TV Guide

combines a comedy of manners with historical drama, as it examines the 1856 British takeover of India

Full Review… | May 3, 2006
Old School Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khiladi)


My first film by Satyajit Ray. I was impressed. Excellent director. The story is interesting and funny, even if you know nothing about chess. If you love chess it's a must. Two men play chess all day to the exclusion of everything. When their beautiful chess pieces are stolen they find a way to continue playing. Marvelous twists and turns in the story kept me wondering what was coming next. I'll watch another film by this director anytime.

Morris Nelms
Morris Nelms

Super Reviewer

The more political Ray's films get, the less interesting they are. The story is engaging when it focuses on the main characters, not so much when it cuts away to Attenborough and the king. I would have preferred a simple comedy about the chess players, with information about the political climate being subtlely gleaned from the outside world. The allegorical stuff is really ham-fisted. The narration is unnecessary, and at times makes the film feel like an educational reel.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

Excellent film full of humour and understatement. I don't think I've seen the past presented so naturally in a film. Everything is perfect.

Ben Gui
Ben Gui

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