Shiraz: A Romance of India

A startlingly ambitious epic...the crowd scenes and the location work in this film are a real marvel, and there is great tenderness to its final act.


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).

"Gasp inducing." ~ Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times

"An epic sweeping love story." ~ Jason Solomons
Not Rated
Silent, Romance, Drama
Franz Osten
Himansu Rai
Bryony Dixon, Sight and Sound

For the modern audience the spectacular locations are perhaps the star of the show. Permission to film inside India’s most exquisite Mughal palaces can’t have been easy to get, but Rai was persuasive; securing the help of the Maharaja of Jaipur evidently opened doors. The cast is good, too: Rai has ...

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