Taj Mahal's love story to set for the archive gala

Tuesday 12th September 2017 09:12 EDT

The restoration of the 1928 production of Shiraz by the BFI national Archive has been announced as part of the launch for the UK India Year of Culture, a celebration of the long-standing relationship between the UK and India, which will see cultural events, exhibitions and activities taking place in both countries throughout 2017.

The film will premiere as the Archive Gala at the 61st BFI Film Festival in partnership with American Express®, on 14 October at the Barbican. Shiraz tells the love story of the 17th-century princess who inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal. Planning is now underway for the film, which has rarely been seen in India since 1928, to be screened in India once again with the Taj Mahal forming a backdrop to the event.

Both screenings will be accompanied by a live performance of a specially commissioned score by the Indian composer and sitar player Anoushka Shankar. Subsequently Shiraz will screen at festivals and cinemas across India as a powerful symbol of the partnership between India and the UK.

Shiraz tells the story behind the construction of the Taj Mahal. It’s a tale of love and undying devotion, following Shiraz, the building's designer, and his childhood sweetheart, the princess who became the Empress Mumtaz Mahal –  to whom the mausoleum was dedicated. It’s a film as remarkable and ornate as the structure itself – and Shankar’s score, performed here by an eight-piece ensemble of players on Indian and western instruments, promises to echo the magnificence of the building.

Shankar was taught by her father, the celebrated Ravi Shankar, a pivotal figure in the popularisation of the sitar, introducing the instrument to many Western ears. And like her father, she continues to open up new possibilities for this instrument, and has collaborated with musicians as diverse as MIA and Herbie Hancock.This is the world premiere of both the score and of the BFI National Archive’s restoration of the film, specially commissioned to mark the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.

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