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Archive Gala

Shiraz: A Romance of India

The world premiere of Anoushka Shankar’s new score for Shiraz, a spectacular silent film romance, filmed entirely in India.


Dir Franz Osten
Prod Himansu Rai
Scr William A Burton
With Himansu Rai, Enakshi Rama Rau, Charu Roy
UK Distribution BFI Distribution

This epic silent film is a ravishing, romantic tale of the story behind one of the world’s most iconic structures: the Taj Mahal. Shiraz is based on the story of the 17th century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, his queen and the building of the world’s most beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal. Shot entirely on location in India, it features lavish costumes and gorgeous settings, including the extraordinary fort at Agra. This remarkable UK-Indian-German co-production was wholly Indian in conception: the brainchild of star and producer Himansu Rai, based on a play by Niranjan Pal and performed by an all-Indian cast. Rai himself plays humble potter Shiraz, who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she is sold by slave traders to the future emperor (Charu Roy). Selima catches the eye of the prince, but finds a bitter rival in an ambitious favourite (Seeta Devi) from his harem. Shiraz, meanwhile, is fated to design the queen’s iconic mausoleum. The restoration by the BFI National Archive and Dragon Digital has significantly improved the picture quality of the film. A new score commissioned by the BFI from world-renowned sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar will be performed live with an ensemble of musicians playing Indian and western instruments.

Bryony Dixon

Additional information

The 61st BFI London Film Festival Archive Gala presented by the Barbican

Film remastering and new score supported using public funding by Arts Council England, alongside additional support from Matt Spick; PRS Foundation’s ‘The Open Fund’; the George Harrison family, on behalf of the Material World Foundation; and all donors to the BFI’s Film is Fragile fundraising campaign. The restoration and new score are part of the BFI’s contribution to the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.

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