I watched this 1977 Satyajit Ray movie today. Using the game of chess as a metaphor, it focuses on the ineptitude of the ruler and wealthier citizens of Awad to protect their land from the company and colonization. From the friendship treaty signed by the British with the Nawab's ancestors for providing human resources, money and land to expand the company conquests in India, the movie focuses on each move of the British until the check-mate point with the Nawab symbolically handing over his crown to avoid blood shedding of his people.
While the main theme is the game of chess played by the British and the rulers of India's various states, the story is taken along through two wealthy landowners of Awad - Mir Ali and Mirza Ali - who have become addicted literally to the game of chess to the extent that they are blind to what happens around them - they are indifferent to what is happening in their country, their state, their village and even their own home. This last point is pushed home by the glimpses of failed marriages in the lives of the two men due to their addiction to chess. While Shabana Azmi and Farida Jalal acted well their parts, it is a pity that an actress like Shabana Azmi was only provided a very small role but then again, the film did not have much room for women to act as it obsessively focused on the games of chess played by the two men as well as the larger game played by the colonizers and the rulers.
Overall, Shatranj Ke Khilari is a beautifully filmed movie by Satyajit Ray.