After its outing as a live experience in Trafalgar Square (the home for silent films in London these days) in the summer, the BFI is releasing Franz Osten’s 1928 A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash) on DVD. It comes with Nitin Sawhney’s orchestral score which was first played at that open-air screening.
A Throw of Dice is one of three Anglo-German films set in India and directed by Osten, working with Indian actor-producer Himansu Rai. As the blurb tells us:
After the beautiful Sunita nurses Ranjit back to health following dramatic events during a royal tiger hunt, his wicked rival Sohat persuades him to risk his kingdom and his love in a fateful game of dice. Shot on location in Rajasthan, the film features over ten thousand extras and an impressive array of horses, elephants and tigers. Its star actors all had major careers in Indian cinema and remain legendary and much-loved figures. Rai stars in the role of nefarious Sohat, with Charu Roy as Ranjit, and Seeta Devi (the Anglo-Indian actress born Renee Smith) as Sunita.
The BFI contonues to find inventive ways in which to exhibit, promote and contexualise silent films. Here a competent if somewhat ponderous late silent, long thought of as a diverting curiosity of interest mostly to the specialist, is spruced and re-invented as a movie of the moment. It’s all in the marketing.