Entrancing as it is exotic, silent classic A Throw Of Dice (1929) plays like a fairytale for adults. German director Franz Osten shot the film in Rajasthan, capturing dense jungle and sweeping mountain vistas to tell a timeless story based on the ancient Hindu legend 'Mahabharata'. It sees Himansu Rai and Charu Roy as two kings playing fast and loose for the affections of a beautiful hermit's daughter (Seeta Devi). But as in all great tragedy, the game is rigged.
All is quiet in the jungle until King Sohat (Rai) and the neighbouring King Rajit (Roy) embark on a royal tiger hunt. A discreet sideways smile and an arched eyebrow peg Sohat as the villain of the piece and, sure enough, an errant bullet finds the suave King Rajit at death's door. Unfortunately for Sohat, the wound is not fatal and, worse than that, the danger brings Rajit closer to his true love Sunita (Devi). Still determined to have Sunita and Rajit's kingdom, Sohat then proceeds to fix a game of dice. The only sure bet is that Rajit will fall for the trap.
"BRILLIANTLY EVOCATIVE NEW SCORE"
It's a cautionary tale about greed, complacency and addiction, but unlike the Greek tradition, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The softly focused, flickering images and a brilliantly evocative new score by Nitin Sawhney heighten the sense of romance too, sparking nostalgia for a time and place beyond the reach of experience. But there's also a feeling of modernity about the way Osten cuts the action and peppers it with a few striking close-ups of bitter realisation. Tigers and elephants roam through, and thousands of extras create blockbuster scenes of public rebellion towards the end. It's a simple story, hardly a showcase for complex characterisation, but it's excitingly larger than life. The stakes couldn't be higher and a satisfying payoff is guaranteed.
A Throw Of Dice (Prapancha Pash) is out in the UK on 31st August 2007. A preview with live orchestra takes place on 30th August 2007 in London's Trafalgar Square.