I made a conscious decision in the first half of 2012 to get the 1920s films of the list out of the way, so my experience with silent film (Tabu aside) has been limited to the latest edition’s new entries, which were either very good but atypical of silent film of the time, or a typical silent picture that didn’t seem worth it all too much. Prapancha Pash, or A Throw of Dice, seems to fall in-between the two; there are aspects of this one that absolutely make it a must see, but the film is not without its flaws, flaws that may be glaring for some.
Two cousins, Ranjit and Sohan, are kings, as well as compulsive gamblers; they frequently enjoy playing such betting games with each other. It is on a safari through the jungle that they both meet Sunita, and after the courtship of Ranjit and Sunita blossoms, they are to be wed, and the night before, the two kings celebrate with a dice game, which quickly escalates until the stakes are their kingdoms and even Sunita herself. What Ranjit doesn’t know, however, is that Sohan has been plotting to kill him for some time, and rigs the game so that he comes out the victor. What happens next, I won’t spoil, but if you’ve seen damn near any film with a good guy, bad guy, and romantic interest, or even if you’ve merely heard of such films, then you know how this one will end up. This film isn’t about surprising you with a climactic twist or a plot that you won’t see coming; no, Prapancha Pash was made for one huge selling point: the location. Technically a German production, and with a German director, Prapancha Pash was filmed in India, and thus comes across, as many have pointed out, as an odd sort of mix between an extravagant Cecil B. DeMille or D.W. Griffith production and a Bollywood film, complete with melodrama galore. Nearly every frame of this film is a sumptuous feast of imagery and production value, from the exotic locations, sets, and animals, to the thousands of extras used in the making of it. If you do see Prapancha Pash, make it for this reason alone, as the story elements will admittedly not be enough to sustain you.
I’ve admitted in the past that I do tend to go a little giddy over a film that is exceptional visually, even if it is lacking in the meat and potatoes of the substance and material, and Prapancha Pash is a pretty good example of just such a film. That said, maybe it was the fact that it was silent, overly predictable, and rather poorly acted that caused me to not enjoy this as much as I would have. There was plenty of visual entertainment for the eyes, yes, but it felt a little empty, and not altogether worth the entire film, which was a shame given that the film isn’t even an hour and a half long. I can definitely see why this was added to the list, but I can’t really say that you should go out of your way to see it. As I said before, if you do see it, make sure you know what you want out of it before you do.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10