Remember late maestro Satyajit Ray's 1977 period film Shatranj Ke Khilari based on a short story by Munshi Premchand? The celluloid gem, subtitled The Chess Players in English, is etched in the memory of film aficionados owing to the two happy-go-lucky chess players essayed by Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey. The story is told in the backdrop of British expansion in India around 1856 and the fall of Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of the princely kingdom of Oudh known for his patronage of dance and music and often referred to as a debauch.
In the Ray movie, two noblemen of Lucknow are engaged in their endless pursuit of the game of chess remaining indifferent to the political developments around and the occupation of India by the foreign power. So much so that their neglected wives were looking out for other men.
Cut from the celluloid world of a period drama to the bustling Gariahat traffic intersection in south Kolkata, known for its roadside garment kiosks and well-known shops and establishments, here in the sweltering heat of one of the hottest summer days in June, men of all ages can be seen engaged in an absorbing game of chess.
With furrowed foreheads, eyes trained on the black and white chessboard and minds planning the next move, the brooding men of Gariahat are found immersed in the game, indifferent to the honking of cars and the clamour of the city all around.
When the news of Vishwanathan Anand’s fifth hard fought world title victory over his Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand broke on May 30, some men were busy playing chess at the Gariahat boulevard.
Image: People are found engrossed in a game of chess in a street corner near Gariahat traffic intersection in south Kolkata.