Decoding the Moves of Colonial Chess

Shreya Bhattacharji

in Filming Fiction

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780198075936
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081851 | DOI:
Decoding the Moves of Colonial Chess

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In his short story ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ (1924), Premchand uses the game of chess as a subtle politico-colonial metaphor. Known in its heyday as ‘Paris of the East’ and ‘Babylon of India’, Wajid Ali Shah's Lucknow symbolizes ‘decadent refinement’. In his film adaptation of the novel, Satyajit Ray depicts his luxury-intoxicated, chess-sedated noblemen friends as politically conscious, extremely aware of the insidious exploitative nature of the East India Company. Ray also portrays a self-indulgent Lucknow, but his tone is never judgemental. Both Premchand and Ray focus on elements of the spectacular that constitute the pulsating matrix of Wajid Ali Shah's Oudh. This chapter, with reference to ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, is an informed rendering of the politico-colonial metaphor of chess used as a game of power between the colonizer and colonized whereby it compares the experiences of colonization in select countries of Africa and Asia.

Keywords: Satyajit Ray; Premchand; Shatranj Ke Khiladi; chess; Lucknow; Wajid Ali Shah; Oudh; East India Company; power; colonization

Chapter.  5625 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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