British Council and BFI National Archive bring restored rare Indian silent film back to cinemas in India with new live score performed by Anoushka Shankar


The British Council and the British Film Institute (BFI) have announced that, following the 61st BFI London Film Festival world premiere of the restored Shiraz: A Romance of India, screening at the Barbican on 14 October the film will tour four Indian cities as part of the UK/India 2017 Year of Culture, a year-long celebration of the long-standing relationship between India and the UK, which has seen a vast programme of cultural exchange and activity take place in cities across both countries throughout 2017 which has included an extensive 8 month programme of classic and contemporary Indian Cinema at BFI Southbank.


A world leader in film restoration, the BFI holds the original negative material of Shiraz in the Archive. Franz Osten’s sumptuous Indian silent classic has been meticulously remastered by the conservation team at the BFI National Archive. Screening at the BFI LFF as the Archive Gala, the film will then visit HyderabadKolkataNew Delhi and Mumbai in India from 1 November to 5 November, accompanied by live performance of a specially commissioned score by Grammy® -nominated leading contemporary Indian composer and sitar player, Anoushka Shankar and an orchestral ensemble.


Shiraz tells the love story of the 17th century princess who inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal. For the modern viewer the appeal of Shiraz is the extreme rarity of a sophisticated silent feature film made outside the major producing nations of the West, the gorgeous settings and costumes and the glories of the spectacular fort at Agra and of course the iconic Taj Mahal, a central character here in its own right. Two infamous kisses that take place in the film will definitely surprise modern audiences and are really quite extraordinary for Indian Cinema of the period. Shiraz was adapted from Niranjan Pal’s play, the first Indian playwright to have his work performed in the West End.


Deeply rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, Anoushka Shankar studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By the age of 20, she had made three classical recordings and received her first Grammy® nomination, thereby becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category.


Through her bold and collaborative approach as a composer, Anoushka has encouraged cross-cultural dialogue whilst demonstrating the versatility of the sitar across musical genres. As a result, Anoushka has created a vital body of work with a prominent roster of artists such as Sting, M.I.A, Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Joshua Bell.


Tickets for the live score screenings of Shiraz in India, can be bought by the public online in India on BookMyShow and via a process of pre-registration, expected to reach more than 4000 people.  The tour will be made possible with the kind support of Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation in Hyderabad as part of the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival 2017 and Sangit Kala Mandir in Kolkata.


Following the Indian tour Shiraz will screen around the UK in January 2018 and be released on Blu-ray by BFI.


On bringing Shiraz back to audiences in India, Robin Baker, BFI Head Curator says, “These gala performances of Shiraz are the culmination of the thousands of hours it has taken the BFI National Archive to restore and transform a silent film classic, ensuring that it is safely preserved for future generations. Very few Indian silent films survive, which makes Shiraz all the more important and precious. It seems particularly fitting that in this UK-India Year of Culture 2017 we celebrate with a film that brought together talent from India and the UK 90 years ago – while the new score brings the film right up to date thanks to the genius of Anoushka Shankar”


Alan Gemmell OBE, Director, British Council India said, “For over 100 years film has connected the UK and India. With the British Film Institute and Anoushka Shankar we are bringing one of the most famous on-screen kisses and iconic Indian films back to life. Shiraz is a highlight of the British Council’s programme for Prime Minister Modi’s UK-India Year of Culture. A programme that will celebrate the UK and India’s relationship, connect with young people in both countries and inspire them to build a relationship for the next 70 years”.

Briony Hanson, British Council Director Film adds, “For audiences anywhere, the chance to see Shiraz in a form as close to how it was originally made is exciting; to enjoy a new score by Anoushka Shankar who is doing so much to introduce a new generation to sitar music, makes it doubly so; but to have the opportunity to present both film and composer to new audiences across India for the first time is unbeatable, and makes a perfect highlight for our UK/India 2017 Year of Culture”