Peer Into a Foreign Land – Silently

When Shiraz released in 1928, India was fighting for independence from British rule. Ghandi began his peaceful protests, and the nation began to rebuild its identity. In telling the story of the Taj Mahal’s creation – and the reason for it – Shiraz stood up for India. The beauty, the culture, the style of it all.

That’s what Shiraz does best, and arguably too much. In 1928, these winding, extended scenes of India’s lifestyles drew the eye. Exotic and foreign, Shiraz’s historical travelogue brings out a visual feast. Under that, a languishing romantic story. Looking back from 2019, cut the visuals and get on with things.

Shiraz’s tale isn’t one of true romance, rather a look at the class divide

It matters more when considering the final moments contain the authentic heart of this story. Shiraz (Himanshu Rai) builds the Taj Mahal model while blind; the design comes from love, a love he was never allowed to have. Shiraz’s tale isn’t one of true romance, rather a look at the class divide and how feelings of love cross such boundaries. In that, Shiraz is powerful and emotive.

Shiraz’s story even turns into a fairy tale-like fantasy – albeit a true one. Dalia (Seeta Davi) is sold to slavery, bought by the Emperor, and later discovered to be a rightful queen. Shiraz never leaves her side, even as she falls for India’s ruler, always checking to ensure her happiness. He’s even willing to give his life because of what today amounts to a clerical error, just for a chance to see her.

The Taj Mahal stands today because of these events. It’s a gorgeous monument, and Shiraz doesn’t seek the traditional happy ending, rather truth, even reality. That’s gutsy, led along by stunning visual flourishes, capturing India in total elegance. Just don’t come for the drama.


MVD and Juno films combine to give this BFI restoration a proper HD disc. It’s marvelous. Shiraz begs for this treatment given the lush architecture and clothing. With dazzling resolution, Shiraz’s texture sees life again after 90 years. Better, long shots with hundreds of extras on horseback or praying, setting scale with no loss of sharpness.

Precise grain replication poses limited issue for this encode. Certain shots waver in their definition, not the fault of this transfer or master, rather cinematography and crude editing techniques. Other than a severe scratch frame right a bit past the hour mark, damage stays lean for the runtime. A few specks of dirt impact nothing.

Importantly, India’s heavy sun is captured through the contrast. Brightness pushes limits without clipping. Gray scale settles in nicely, albeit with little use for true black. Shiraz stays in the light.


A wonderful score from Anoushka Shankar sells the localized culture, presented in both DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0. Stick with 5.1 for small surround flourishes and pleasing low-end drums.


The case lists a restoration demonstration and 1944 PSA about Indian music, but neither show up in the Blu-ray menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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While the clumsy romance and sluggish pacing struggle to maintain interest, Shiraz offers incredible images of India and stellar finish.

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