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Shiraz: A Romance of India

Directed by Franz Osten

India, 1928

HOME, 6 February 2018

There is plenty of vitality to be found still in this silent film of 1928, now released with a newly minted, soul-stirring soundtrack by Anoushka Shankar.

It is set in Mughal India and tells the story (or a version of it, anyway) of muted yet strong passions behind the building of the Taj Mahal. You have Shiraz, who comes to try and rescue the Princess Selima when she is kidnapped and sold as an odalisque. Alas, she is to wed her captor, the Emperor Shah Jehan, a man of noble blood. Still, Shiraz watches over her from afar, just to make sure he treats her right.

I was quite taken by with Lady Dalia myself (played by the wonderful Seeta Devi, born Renee Smith), a scheming beauty with fiery eyes. She is the black swan or evil queen in this story, and quite an enticing one at that. Eventually, she is found out, and once her sinister machinations are revealed to the Emperor she is banished from the kingdom.

As for the Emperor himself, if you really get on the wrong side of him you could find an elephant’s foot coming down onto your face or feel a red hot poker in your eye. A nasty piece of work, he is, and no mistake.

Shiraz is a beautiful, sometimes surprisingly brutal film.