Shiraz A Romance of India 1928
This 1928 silent film, now restored by the BFI, is a startlingly ambitious epic weepie-romance, filmed entirely on location in India – and is of far more than just archival interest. Taking creative flight from the historical record, it reimagines the story of the Mumtaz Mahal, the 17th-century Mughal empress in India 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 (played by the film’s producer-star Himansu Rai) remains deeply in love with this girl, named Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau). 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.

Director: Franz Osten
Cast: Himansu Rai, Charu Roy, Seeta Devi, Enakashi Rama Rao
Country: India, UK, Germany
Genre: Drama, Romance

BD50 | 1080p AVC | 01:45:48 | 32.5 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English intertitles
Subtitles: none

-- Restoration Demonstration (2017, 3 mins)
-- Temples of India (1938, Hans M Nieter, 10 mins): Indian travelogue featuring beautiful colour footage of the Taj Mahal shot by Jack Cardiff
-- Musical Instruments of India (1944, 12 mins): public information film made by the Government of India to promote Indian arts and culture