Shiraz: A Romance of India

03.06.2020 - Karina Lagdameo-Santillan

Shiraz: A Romance of India
Shiraz Movie Still, 1928. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A film directed by Franz Osten
A British, German and Indian co-production
With actors Himansu Rai, Enakshi Rama Rau, Charu Roy, Seeta Devi
A 1928 Indian silent film with music and English intertitles
Meticulously restored by the BFI National Archive
Featuring a specially commissioned score by Grammy award-nominated composer-sitarist, Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary Ravi Shankar

An astonishingly beautiful gem, a treasure of the silent cinema, this film is now streaming exclusively on Youtube, courtesy of the We Are One Global Film Festival, a 10-day online festival exclusively on YouTube. It is the first-ever global film festival co-curated by over 20 film festivals with all funds raised during the festival to benefit COVID-19 relief funds.

Franz Osten’s epic silent feature is a creative re-imagining of the love that moved the creation of the Taj Mahal, which today stands as one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic monuments to love. Fictional in its plot, the film takes creative license with the story of the life and death of the 17th  century Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal empress whose early demise inspired her husband, the well-loved emperor Shaj Jahan to construct the Taj Mahal.

The film is based on a play by Niranjan Pal. In this fictional story, the potter Shiraz is the childhood friend and love of Selima. But she is kidnapped by slave traders, sold to the Crown Prince, the future emperor who falls in love with her. Shiraz follows her and enters the forbidden palace grounds for which he is sentenced to be trodden to death by an elephant. He is given a reprieve at the last moment when the Crown Prince discovers that he was tricked by an ambitious lady who wanted to be Empress. She eventually marries the Prince but Shiraz stays faithful to her through the years. Upon the death of the Empress, the Emperor commissions craftsmen to create models for a monument to his beloved wife. Shiraz forms his memories of his beloved into creating the architectural model of the Taj Mahal – a monument to both the Emperor’s and his own undying love for Selima. Two loves, not one, immortalized in marble.

This is not history, but a moving drama, made more beautiful by the setting of the period it was shot. We see the vast desserts and the beautiful architecture of the Mughal times, Northern India as it was in the early 1900s. Camel caravans and marauding horsemen riding across the desert. Crowded slave markets, an all Indian cast of thousands, elephants, and the luxury of the palace inside and out. Nobility in lavish, authentic costumes, gorgeous settings, beautiful photography, all masterfully restored. It’s a romantic adventure shot entirely on location that also serves as documentary value.

The film is made even more moving and heartfelt with the original score composed by composer-sitar player Anoushka Shankar. Dramatic, percussive, echoing the traditional music of that era, the soundtrack accompanying the scenes is performed by a traditional Indian ensemble infused with strings and a Moog synthesizer, setting the pace of this film.

All in all, it is a tale of the love that created the Taj Mahal–

“Not stone and mortar
But faith and longing–
Not hands,
But the warmth of a heart–
Built this which stands like a dream.

A film worth watching, it will be available for viewing until June 7 when the festival ends.

Here is the link:






Categories: Asia, Culture and Media, Region
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