A joy to the eye, this beautifully restored film is pure romance, telling the story of how the Taj Mahal came to be built. Shiraz is a lowly but talented potter in love with his adopted sister, Selima, who is sold to the palace as a slave. Her beauty is spotted by Prince Khurran who makes his intentions clear. Shiraz is always gripping, at times with edge- of-seat tension. This, together with its musical soundtrack, ensures no allowance is needed for it being a so-called ‘silent’ film – it simply isn’t!
“Multilayered, pulsing with energy, weaving a selection of Indian and European instruments together […], Shankar’s score invigorated the film.” (Pamela Hutchinson, silentlondon.co.uk)
Dir: Franz Osten 106mins Ind/Ger/UK 2016
Restored from original film elements by the BFI in 2017, Shiraz had its premiere as a gala screening at that year’s London Film Festival, accompanied by a new score composed & performed by Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Ravi). ‘Some of the music is true to 17th century Indian styles, other parts’, she says ‘have lower, deeper tones that don’t really exist in the Indian sound- scape’. Shiraz subsequently played at a number of venues in India in late 2017. Acknowledgements: Anon, Wikipedia, BFI
“[…] a startlingly ambitious epic weepie-romance, filmed entirely on location in India […] Taking creative flight from the historical record, it re-imagines the story of Mumtaz Mahal, the 17th century Mughal empress whose death so devastated the emperor that he commissioned the monument to her in Agra, now known as the Taj Mahal. The film invents a new backstory for the empress: as a little girl she is ambushed with her mother by bandits in the desert and rescued by a family with no clue of her noble identity (although an amulet is to be the proof). They bring her up as a little sister to their son, Shiraz. In adulthood, Shiraz […] remains deeply in love with this girl, named Selima. When she is kidnapped by slavers and sold into the harem of the emperor, poor Shiraz hangs around the palace gates, trying to gain admittance, even as the emperor falls in love with her and she with him. Shiraz is threatened with all sorts of punishments and tortures and grows old and blind as a beggar outside the palace because Selima could only think of him as a brother. But after her death, he is to achieve a redemption by designing her famed marble mausoleum in a blind, visionary ecstasy.
The crowd scenes and the location work in this film are a real marvel, and there is great tenderness to its final act” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
Himansu Rai – Shiraz
Enakshi Rama Rau – Princess Selima
Charu Roy – Emperor Shah Jehan
Seeta Devi – Dalia
Director – France Osten
Producer – Himansu Rai
Screenplay – William A Burton
Cinematography – Henry Harris, Emil Schünemann
Original Music – Anoushka Shankar
- Wistful, wonderful. Definitely better than the Antonioni!
- Compelling, moving and timeless – quite excellent, not at all dated
- Perfection – and JC filling up your tank, too!
- An excellent plot
- With plenty of themes open to interpretation, the film had much to say about life and death. It would be worth seeing a few times to fully appreciate all its ideas
- Glad I saw that! A thought provoking film
- I hadn’t expected a sentimental film! I enjoyed the Freudian dream sequences – no one does them now!
- How many intimations of mortality can you cram into a road movie? The opening scenes were well worthy of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte
- Beautifully shot – what can I say?
- Some touching scenes, recent and past but I never unravelled the plot
- Felt very much of its time
- Still dark!