The Chess Players

This film, directed by Satyajit Ray, is very similar to both Ceddo and Perfumed Nightmare. The film is about British Colonialism in India. Set in 1856, the British are trying to encroach upon the life and culture of those in India. Watching the film; however, the point of views seems to be of that of the British. The poorer classes of India’s culture seem to be on the outskirts, not really a focal point compared to other films. The focus seems to be more on that of India’s aristocracy.

Being that the film’s title has “chess” and the characters play chess, I believe that chess is the allegory to Indian society. Everyone seems to be looking in and down. No one seems to be questioning what is going on around them or how to really prevent the tides from turning. Going into the village, the working class is seen playing a game of cock fighting, but the people don’t stop to look around. Distraction does not seem to come easy.

When looking at the historical accounts and images, we can tell that archival resources were used. Knowing a little about archives and records from my own genealogy research, I am familiar with many records being held by British archives and that other more local records are generally accessible to those who speak the native language of the community. This can attest to why the perspective seems to favor that of the British. Ray likely had to use records available through the British archives due to his inability to speak the native language of the location in India in which his film takes place. It’s also possible that these records don’t exist.

Looking back to the previous films, I can see how different angles on colonialism can be perceived. Ray depicts colonialism being influenced by the lack of knowledge of a culture. The General is asking Weston about the Indian culture and about Wajid Ali Shah, who was the leader in India during the time. The General’s lack of knowledge is his excuse in demanding the British take over. Weston, who loves the Urdu culture seems to be at odds. He is British by birth, but his anthropological interests have hi,  wanting to educate and learn about the Urdu people. Yet, in the end, the British prevail.

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