Director: Satyajit Ray
The film, set just before the Indian Rebellion of 1857, builds a parallel between the historical drama of the native state of Awadh and its ruler, the nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who was dethroned by the British, and the story of two nobles of that kingdom, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, who passionately and obsessively play shatranj, an ancient form of chess. The feature film travels around the idea that the self-centeredness, detachment and cowardice of India’s ruling classes led to the takeover of Awadh by British officials and the East India Company.
Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta in 1921. Son of Sukumar Ray, one of the leading figures of the Bengali literary scene, in 1940 he graduated in economics from the University of Calcutta and went to work as an illustrator at Tagore University in Viswa-Bharati. He made his directorial debut in 1955 with the eponymous adaptation of the 1928 novel Pather Panchali (“Song of the Road”), which began his trilogy on the life of the young Apu, followed by Aparajito (“The Invincible”, 1956) and Apur Sansar (“Apu’s World”, 1959). This was the basis for the rise of his reputation as one of the country’s best filmmakers. In addition to being a director, he was a screenwriter, composer of the soundtrack, editor and designer of the credits and publicity material for his films. Throughout his extensive film career, Ray received as many as 36 Indian National Film Awards, a Golden Lion, two Silver Bears, as well as the Bharat Ratna, India’s most prestigious civilian award. Almost a month before his death, he became the first Indian to receive an Honorary Oscar in 1992.