In Ray’s centenary 12 months, a brand new exhibition showcasing the costumes of Shatranj Ke Khiladi celebrates the filmmaker’s eye for element
In her creation to ‘A King’s Gambit’, a one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the unique costumes of Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi, curator Indrani Majumdar fondly describes the outlet series of the movie the place a hand reaches around the chessboard and makes a transfer. A 2d later, any other hand from the other finish seems to counter it. “The woven silk sleeves and ornate rings of the avid gamers are the one indication that the scene is about in a bygone generation,” says Indrani.
Because the digicam zooms out to deliver the 2 avid gamers, nawabs Mir Roshan Ali and Mirza Sajjad Ali, into focal point, what moves you first is the grandeur of all of it — the lavish decor and the magnificent costumes worn by way of the indolent royals.
After Mughal-e-Azam, this was once in all probability the one length movie the place costumes and structure performed a central function and prefer Okay. Asif, Ray too indulged in painstaking analysis. On the other hand, in contrast to Asif’s magnum opus, Ray’s movie was once a historic, in keeping with a Premchand tale, that captured the closing days of Wajid Ali Shah at the throne of Awadh. Except for the beleaguered poet-king, Lt. Basic Sir James Outram, Captain Weston, and Physician Fayrer additionally to find trustworthy illustration within the garments they don.
Satyajit Ray’s notes and sketches for the movie.
The costumes mirror the fastidious analysis that Ray put into the existence and instances of the characters. On show on the exhibition are a variety of achkans, angrakhas, jamas, pyjamas, shararas, cholis, turbans, pagris, silver embellishes, and sneakers from manufacturer Suresh Jindal’s private assortment, preserved through the years in metal bins with camphor squares. Suresh says that once it got here to investigate and studying anything else new, Ray had the “interest and inquisitiveness of a kid”.
Indrani issues out that Ray drew from the English translation of Abdul Halim Sharar’s Lucknow, The Final Segment of an Japanese Tradition. “It took a Agra-based grasp craftsman 3 months to do the embroidery on Wajid Ali Shah’s inexperienced gown. The shararas that Shabana Azmi wore had been stitched by way of poet Ali Sardar Jafri’s sisters. A complete selection of precious heirloom shawls was once loaned to us by way of Thakur households of Calcutta,” says Suresh.
Wajid Ali Shah’s inexperienced gown.
A large number of credit score for rendering the unique really feel is going to Shama Zaidi, who now not best transliterated Ray’s English script with Javed Siddiqui but additionally took care of the costumes. “Except for her grooming in theatre, Shama, in fact, hails from the milieu. She had the first-hand revel in of seeing and dealing with the costumes that was once required,” says Suresh, who knew her from her theatre days. A large number of data, he says, got here from the artwork of the generation. In step with Ray, the Kathak scene, particularly, was once impressed by way of an engraving of that length.
Salar Jung Museum, Falaknuma Palace of the Nizams in Hyderabad and the Town Palace Museum in Jaipur had been number one resources for the movie’s analysis. Archival photographs to be had on the erstwhile Bourne & Shepherd photographic studio in Calcutta had been any other vital useful resource. The Victoria Memorial presented an oil portray of Wajid Ali Shah, which acted as the main reference for the king’s bodily look.
“All British costumes had been employed from Nathan and Berman in London, the most important gown hirers for movie and degree in Europe,” says Suresh. After an elaborate session with the Nationwide Struggle Museum, London, Andrew Mollo, a British skilled, did the sketches for the army costumes. “Richard Attenborough (who performed James Outram) introduced them with him as private luggage and carried them again with him. He came upon that Outram smoked cheroots and acquired them himself from a well-known tobacconist in London,” remembers Suresh.
On the other hand, there have been blips. Indrani quotes Ray’s biographer Marie Seton, who wrote, “For the sake of accuracy, the ADC uniforms had been ordered in London. Once they arrived they had been discovered to be summer season uniforms however the order was once for wintry weather! Even the helmet was once flawed. It was once Shama Zaidi who made them glance just about proper.”
Additionally on view are letters exchanged by way of Ray and Suresh; sketches ready for the clothes in conjunction with their material swatches; in addition to sketches of the jewelry made by way of Manju Saraogi. Two volumes of kheror khata (clothbound pocket book) digitised by way of the Nationwide Virtual Library of India also are exhibited. “The letters display that Ray was once a really perfect correspondent. He had many pen buddies and used to answer his enthusiasts, I don’t understand how he were given such a lot time,” says Indrani. After all, the exhibition showcases the shining crown worn by way of the king of Awadh, which is central to the tale.
Many casually label Shatranj Ke Khiladi as a Hindi movie, however it’s in Urdu and Awadhi dialect and that’s mirrored within the censor certificates. It additionally implies that Ray, for the 1st time, was once running with a language and tradition that was once now not precisely his personal. “After all, he was once inquisitive about making his first non-Bengali movie, however in Shama and Javed, he had the appropriate give a boost to to steer him at the diction and mannerisms. Ray was once an enormous of a person in all imaginable phrases, however he was once similarly humble and open to tips.” Suresh, who co-produced Gandhi, says Attenborough additionally had a workforce to steer him on diction and mannerisms.
Saeed Jaffery and Sanjeev Kumar in Shatranj Ke Khiladi.
Saeed Jaffery was once Ray’s selection, whilst Suresh urged Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan for his or her celebrity worth and theatre background. “It was once now not that Ray was once now not conscious about their strengths. He watched a wide variety of cinema and was once an ordinary on the Global Movie Pageant of India in Delhi.” It’s mirrored in his number of casting veteran actor Veena as Wajid Ali Shah’s mom. The movie set may have turn out to be a wrestling ring between competent actors, however Suresh says “Saeed and Sanjeev had been too protected of their craft to get right into a wrestling fit.”
The movie manages to deliver out the conflicting layers in Wajid Ali Shah’s persona, which English historians frequently fail to understand. When the Corporate was once berating him as incompetent, Wajid’s poetry was once being sung at the streets of Awadh. “Right through his time, Awadh was once the largest contributor to the Corporate’s coffers. Lucknow and Muslims, typically, cherished the movie, as Wajid is an excessively cherished determine of their historical past,” says Suresh, who additionally produced the 2 landmark movies, Rajnigandha and Katha.
Suresh says such exhibitions are uncommon in India. “I’m hoping extra can also be held to encourage satisfaction in our incomparable heritage in material design and similar crafts.”
(A King’s Gambit: Chess, Costumes and a Crown is on show at India Global Centre, New Delhi
till November 5)