An Incisive Dissection of Culture Shock


Once, Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was one of international film culture’s godheads, forming a generation’s view of Indian culture (neorealism-plus) and storytelling (substantially Westernized), and a wide-eyed-child template for humanist cinema that persists today throughout Asia and Africa. So what happened? His lifetime-achievement Oscar notwithstanding, Ray’s fundamental style of filmmaking may have seemed less surprising and fascinating as our media-web access to the third world began to bloom, but his reputation could have been also just another casualty of the post-Lucas “art film” market struggle. Outside of his famous Apu Trilogy, few of Ray’s films have been DVD’d; this 1977 film is an uncharacteristically lush and self-reflexive satire about colonialism and its enabling upper castes, in which two “landed gentry” in the 1850s (Saeed Jaffrey and Sanjeev Kumar) self-indulgently play chess as their marriages, their homes, and their nation collapse in a multi-level siege of careless gaming. At times obvious (and also inexplicably more then 10 minutes shorter than the original version, which might not be a bad thing), Ray’s film is an incisive dissection of culture shock and class privilege. Minor supps.