The sold-out world premiere gala screening of Frank Olsten’s Shiraz at the 61st BFI London Film Festival (LFF) last October with live musical performance by Anoushka Shankar, received an overwhelming response and standing ovation from the Barbican audience. Restored by the BFI, this 1928 epic silent movie tells the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal and was shot entirely in India with a cast of thousands.
The BFI commissioned Anoushka Shankar to compose a score to accompany the film. Whilst composing the music, her first full-length film score, Anoushka was very aware of the musical choices that needed to be made. “I could try and be faithful to the period it is set in, the period it was made, or the period I’m writing in today” she explains. “And in the end, it’s a mixture of all those things. I try and keep a balance between moments in the film where it feels appropriate to stay quite authentic and allow the Indian instruments to play in a traditional way. But elsewhere I want it to be more of a film experience and to make the music more immersive so people become more involved in the film. This means a rich, broad sound palette with lower, deeper tones than existed for Indian instruments at the time the story is set.”
Following the premiere, the British Council and the BFI took Shiraz on tour to four Indian cities, Hyderabad, Kolkata, New Delhi and Mumbai, again accompanied by live performances of the score by Anoushka Shankar and her ensemble. The film was sold out and received a standing ovation at every show, a testament to the significance of its restoration and the powerful musical experience.
Anoushka Shankar - sitar
Ravichandra Kulur - bansuri and kanjira
Idris Rahman – clarinet
Preetha Narayanan – violin
Danny Keane - cello and piano
Pirashanna Thevarajah - mridangam, ghatam, moorsing and kanjira
Sanju Sahai - tabla and bass tabla
Christopher Kemsley - harmonium, moog, and modular synthesiser
Dates available 22 May-16 June 2019 and 16 September- 8 October 2019.