Shiraz: A Romance of India
An astonishing treasure of the silent cinema, Shiraz is one of three cinematic collaborations between pioneering star/ producer Himansu Rai and German-born director Franz Osten to be shot on location in India, restored by the BFI from original elements some ninety years after its initial release. Ambitious and elegant, the film takes creative license with the story of the life and death of the 17th century Mumtaz Mahal (Enakshi Rama Rau), the Mughal empress whose early demise inspired her husband, Shiraz (Rai) to construct the Taj Mahal. Inventing a backstory involving bandits, slavers, and nobility-in-disguise, Rai and Osten give us a robust romantic adventure, filled with teeming crowd scenes and location shots that double as invaluable documentary.
Shot entirely on location in India, it features lavish costumes and gorgeous settings – all the more impressive in this restoration by the BFI National Archive which features a specially commissioned score by the Grammy Award-nominated Anoushka Shankar.
Produced by and starring Indian film legend Himansu Rai, the film is performed by an all-Indian cast, featuring Rai as humble potter Shiraz, who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she’s sold by slave traders to the future emperor (Charu Roy).
Directed by Franz Osten. With Himansu Rai, Enakshi Rama Rau, Charu Roy. UK-Germany-India 1928. 105 minutes. DCP.