Book Tickets

Fri 09 Aug

Shiraz: A Romance of India + Live Sitar & Tabla Performance U

Part of Musical Fridays
Part of South Asian Heritage Month 2024
Franz Osten, India, UK, Germany, 1928, 106m.

Prior to the film there will be a traditional Indian music performance by internationally acclaimed sitarist Jonathan Mayer & gifted tabla player Dhanraj Persaud. The film will be introduced by guest curator Anupma Shanker.

A silent spectacle featuring an all-Indian cast of thousands, lavish costumes and gorgeous settings, Shiraz: A Romance of India is based on the true story -or a romanticized version- of the 17th-century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan and the events leading to the construction of the world’s most beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal, in memory of his dead queen, Mumtaz Mahal.

The brainchild of star and producer Himanshu Rai, regarded as one of the pioneers of Indian cinema, this ambitious Indian/British/German co-production was directed by the Bavarian filmmaker Franz Osten, and was the second of three silent films, shot on location in Jaipur, India. Rai plays the lead role of the humble potter Shiraz who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she is sold by slave traders to the future emperor. Shiraz is ultimately fated to design the queen’s iconic mausoleum.

Restored from original film elements by the BFI National Archive in 2017, the film also features a new score by the Grammy Award-winning sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar.

Looking back at this iconic historical saga ninety six years later, Shiraz is not just one of the few silent Indian films to survive, it is an aide-mémoire of India’s flourishing film industry in the 1920s, and a shining jewel of silent world cinema classics.

Jonathan Mayer [Sitar]

Son of the late Kolkata composer John Mayer, Jonathan began his musical training at the early age of 5. His teachers have included Clem Alford (the first ever European sitar player), Pandit Subroto Roychowdhury of Senia Gharana and Wajahat Khan (direct descendent of Mia Tansen the great musician, one of the nine jewels in Moghul court of Emperor Akbar). Jonathan has performed all over the world and his works have been performed and commissioned by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, Docklands Sinfonia, among others. Jonathan is the co-founder of First Hand Records Ltd and Artistic Director of Zeroclassikal.

Dhanraj Persuad [Tabla]

Dhanraj began his training at the age of 14 under the tutelage of Pandit Rajkumar Misra. In keeping with the lineage of his Guru, Dhanraj follows the playing style of the Jaipur and Farukhabad Gharanas of Tabla. Not only is Dhanraj an accomplished Tabla player but also an experienced vocalist, currently receiving training from Smt. Chandrima Misra of the Kasur-Patiala Gharana. Dhanraj has performed extensively around the UK and is fast becoming a much sought after performer within the Indian Classical Music scene in this country.

Anupma Shanker

The film has been chosen by guest curator Anupma Shanker. Anupma is a British-Indian film curator and archives researcher, with a deep and evolving interest in colonial & post-colonial screen narratives. Her curatorial practice is focussed on researching, screening and creating conversations around heritage films, with aim of making them accessible to a wider audience, both within and outside the UK. Her other interests include, Black-British cinema, Post-war Japanese Cinema, Indian Parallel Cinema, and Iranian New-wave Cinema.

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