Enakshi Rama Rau (Selima, later Mumtaz Mahal) in Shiraz: A Romance of India (1928, BFI National Archive)

Five reasons to pick up Shiraz on DVD and Blu-ray

The BFI’s sumptuous restoration of Indian romance Shiraz is out on dual format DVD/Blu-ray now. Assuming that you took this website’s advice and already saw this lush film at the London Film Festival Archive Gala or on its recent theatrical run (actually, there are probably some more screenings coming up – check here) why should you buy it on disc?

1) Because this is a film to wallow in. Hat-tip to the illustrious Anglo-German cinematography team of Henry Harris and Emil Schünemann. It takes repeat viewings of Shiraz to satisfy your hunger for those gorgeous landscapes and grand palaces. All that beauty looks great in high-definition on the Blu-ray – and you can watch a short demo of the restoration to see just the BFI put into making it look so stable and blemish-free. I am shameless, as you know by now, so I recommend using the scene selection function to skip straight to the kiss, or to the reveal of Taj Mahal. Not forgetting the fact that you can pause that elephant’s foot moment to see just how close a call it was.

2) Vintage extras. I really like the BFI’s habit of putting extra archive films on movie discs. In this case it the Temples of India, a short travelogue from 1938 that features the Taj Mahal, which was shot in blistering colour by none other than genius cinematographer Jack Cardiff. There’s also Musical Instruments of India – a government film designed to promote Indian culture, which might be of special interest if you’re drawn to reason Number Three …

3) Anoushka Shankar’s score, which really is one of the most exceptional soundtracks I’ve heard by musician not working in silent film. Read more about that here. Play this film loud.

4) Reading material. Booklet essays by Bryony Dixon, Gautam Chinamani, Simon Broughton and Kieron Webb take you through the making of the film, Franz Osten’s extensive work in India and provide more information on Shankar’s score and the restoration project.

5) Because it is cold outside, and this is the perfect viewing for a snowy day – bring some of that Indian sunshine into your living room.

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