A THROW OF THE DICE (Franz Osten, 1929)

staged with such smooth, “epic” sweep, Prapancha Pash may appear to be much better than the melodramatic claptap that it is. This silent film, which was shot in Rajasthan, is based on the Sanskrit poem The Mahabharata. At a time when cinema was an adventurous art form, German filmmaker Franz Osten’s “masterpiece” is plot-driven—or is that plot-drivel?
     It is the story of two kings, cousins in fact, one virtuous, the other, evil. Both compulsively gamble; both love the same girl. A game of dice will determine which cousin-king will prevail; it is a “winner-take-all” proposition. But the outcome is predetermined; it is rigged with a “trick dice.” The evil one takes the pot, including his cousin’s kingdom. This outcome must not last. . . .
     Heavily moralistic in the Cecil B. DeMille manner, Prapancha Pash is certainly worth a look; at 75 minutes, it causes little pain. It is entertaining. One of its producers is Himansu Rai, who broadly plays nasty King Sohan. Expect little, and you will come out of it okay—if you survive Nitin Sawhney’s new, overemphatic score.
     The film comes from Britain, India and Germany.

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