The Chess Players (film)

  (Redirected from Shatranj Ke Khilari)

Shatranj Ke Khilari (English: The Chess Players) is a 1977 Indian film written and directed by Satyajit Ray, based on Munshi Premchand's short story of the same name. Amjad Khan plays the role of Wajid Ali Shah, King of Awadh, and Richard Attenborough plays the role of General James Outram. The film also features the actors Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, David Abraham, and Tom Alter, as well as Amitabh Bachchan as the narrator. This is the first Hindi feature film of filmmaker Satyajit Ray and second being 'Sadgati'- another adaptation of Premchand's short story.

Shatranj Ke Khilari
Chess players.jpg
Directed bySatyajit Ray
Produced bySuresh Jindal[1][2]
Written bySatyajit Ray
Shama Zaidi
Javed Siddiqi
Screenplay bySatyajit Ray
Based onShatranj ke khiladi, a short story
by Munshi Premchand
StarringSanjeev Kumar
Saeed Jaffrey
Shabana Azmi
Richard Attenborough
Farida Jalal
Amjad Khan
David Abraham
Victor Banerjee
Farooq Shaikh
Tom Alter
Leela Mishra
Samarth Narain
Bhudo Advani
Narrated byAmitabh Bachchan
Music bySatyajit Ray
CinematographySoumendu Roy
Edited byDulal Dutta
Release date
March 11, 1977
Running time
129 minutes
Budgetest. 20 lakh
(est. 3.84 crore as of 2019) [3]


The film is set in 1856 on the eve of the Indian rebellion of 1857. The British are about to annex the Indian State of Awadh (also spelled Oudh). The daily life of two wealthy men who are devoted to chess is presented against the background of scheming officials of the British East India Company, the history of its relations with the Indian ruler of Awadh, and the ruler's devotion both to his religious practice and the pursuit of pleasure.

The Chess Players employed stars of the Bombay cinema (Amjad Khan, Shabana Azmi and Amitabh Bachchan as a narrator) together with British actors (such as Richard Attenborough).

It was India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 51st Academy Awards, but did not receive a nomination.[4]


The film shows in parallel the historical drama of the Indian kingdom Awadh (whose capital is Lucknow) and its Muslim Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who is overthrown by the British, alongside the story of two noblemen who are obsessed with shatranj, an ancient form of chess.[5]

Amjad Khan portrays the Nawab as an extravagant but sympathetic figure. He is an artist and poet, no longer in command of events and unable to effectively oppose the British demand for his throne. Parallel to this wider drama is the personal (and sometimes humorous) tale of two rich noblemen of this kingdom, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali. Inseparable friends, the two nobles became passionately obsessed with the game of shatranj (chess), neglecting his (Mirza Sajjid Ali) wife and failing to act against the real-life seizure of their kingdom by the East India Company. Instead, the two nobles abandon their families and responsibilities, fleeing from Lucknow to play chess in village exile untroubled by greater events. Ray's basic theme in the film is the message that the detachment of India's ruling classes assisted a small number of British officials and soldiers to take over Awadh without opposition.

The role of Captain Weston, so British in his ways, but in love with Urdu poetry, is also worth noting.

In the last scene, after which Mir shoots at Mirza and complains out loud "I won't have a partner to play chess with", Mirza responds to him "but you have one in front of you!" (thus making him understand that he forgives him). He finally concludes that "after nightfall, we will go back home. We both need darkness to hide our faces."


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Aseem Chhabra (15 August 2017). "'There was always a huge calm on the set'". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  2. ^ "'Working with Satyajit Ray Was One of the Joys of Producing Shatranj Ke Khiladi'". The Wire. 28 July 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)". Satyajit Ray official site. Retrieved 24 April 2009.
  4. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  5. ^ "".


  • Satyajit Ray, The Chess Players and Other Screenplays. London: Faber and Faber, 1989. ISBN 0-571-14074-2
  • Andrew Robinson, "Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players", History Today, July 2007

External linksEdit