On Film Restoration and Shiraz: a Romance of India

Shiraz: a Romance of India

Pada mulanya adalah kekaguman. Penghadiran film restorasi ke publik lebih luas tentu membawa semacam nostalgia, ingin kembali ke kelampauan. Apalagi mendapati film yang secara teknis baik, dan cara penceritaannya pas, mulut ini ingin langsung berkata, “film klasik itu yang paling baik.” Termasuk saat saya melihat Shiraz: a Romance of India. Saya terkagum dengan koreografi perang dan bagaimana tim film ini mampu mengatur puluhan orang ke dalam frame atau meminta gajah menginjak si tokoh utama. 

British Film Institute (BFI) merestorasi Shiraz: a Romance of India dan menayangkan film ini secara perdana di BFI London Film Festival 2017.  Film ini diikutsertakan pada festival film online We Are One a Global Film Festival 2020 pada 29 Mei – 7 Juni 2020. 

Shiraz: a Romance of India disutradarai oleh Franz Osten, sutradara asal Jerman. Pada tahun 1907, Osten memulai karirnya di dunia film dengan mendirikan sinema keliling Original Physograph Company. Bersama dengan kakaknya, Peter Ostemayr, Osten mendirikan Bavaria Film Studios, studio terbesar di Jerman tempat produksi film seperti The Deep (Orson Welles, 1967) dan The Serpent’s Egg (Ingmar Bergman, 1977). Sebelum pergi ke India, Osten telah membuat film panjang berjudul Erna Valeska (1911). 

Kolaborasi Osten dengan masyarakat India sendiri dimulai dari film The Light of Asia (1924). Osten mendapatkan tawaran dari Himanshu Rai, pionir film India, untuk memproduksi film yang bisa dikonsumsi oleh penonton seluruh dunia. Rai bertindak sebagai produser, penulis naskah, dan tokoh utama. Bila Osten lebih banyak berurusan dengan ihwal teknis, maka Rai menyediakan pemain dan mencari lokasi untuk shooting. The Light of Asia, Shiraz: a Romance of India, dan a Throw of Dice (1929) yang terinspirasi dari kisah Mahabarata, merupakan trilogi film bisu hasil kolaborasi Osten dan Rai dan berfungsi dalam memperkenalkan cerita, adat, dan keindahan ketimuran ke dalam sinema. 

Cerita Shiraz: a Romance of India

Shiraz (Himanshu Rai) dibesarkan sebagai kakak Selima (Enaksih Roma Rau), gadis keturunan bangsawan yang mengalami kemalangan saat keluarganya melakukan perjalanan. Seiring berjalannya waktu, Shiraz jatuh cinta pada Selima. Ia berjanji untuk selalu melindungi adik sekaligus kekasih hatinya ini. Saat Selima diculik lalu dijual ke pasar budak, Shiraz mengikutinya. Selima dibeli oleh pegawai kerajaan. Pangeran Khurram, yang nantinya dikenal sebagai Shah Janan Raja Kerajaan Mughal, jatuh hati pada kecantikan dan kelembutan Selima. Selima dan Khurram menikah, Shiraz hanya bisa melihat kebahagiaan yang terkasih dari kejauhan. Selepas kematian Selima, Khurram membuat sayembara bagi siapapun yang mampu mendesain bangunan yang mewakili keindahan mendiang istrinya. Ternyata hanya Shiraz, meskipun sudah buta tapi skill craftsmanship masih punya, mampu membuat desain yang disetujui Khurram. Akhirnya mereka bekerja sama membangun Taj Mahal. 

Prince Khurram: “ Kamu tahu aku bisa mengambil apa pun yang aku inginkan?”

Selima: “Tapi kau tak punya kekuatan untuk mengambil hatiku”.

Film ini memang berlatar pembuatan Taj Mahal pada abad 17. Meskipun demikian, ada beberapa hal yang jauh berbeda dari versi sejarah Kerajaan Mughal. Bila dalam catatan sejarah, Pangeran Khurram menikahi Mumtaz Mahal sebagai istri ke dua; dalam film ini Selima adalah satu-satunya istri sah. Selima memang diceritakan sebagai keturunan bangsawan, tetapi ia musti ditinggal mati keluarganya dan hidup dengan keluarga pembuatan gerabah. Tokoh Shiraz sendiri kemungkinan adalah tokoh fiktif ciptaan Rai. Pembuatan karakter semacam ini bisa jadi berfungsi untuk membuat alur cerita semakin dramatis. Namun di sisi lain, strategi ini mengindikasikan bahwa narasi tentang Kerajaan Mughal yang terpusat pada cerita bangsawan diubah untuk membicarakan peran rakyat jelata yang turut membangun kerajaan. 

Yang Tak Terkatakan dari Program Restorasi dan Digitalisasi Film

Saat melihat film yang telah direstorasi ataupun didigitalisasi, pertanyaan saya kemudian berkembang, “memang orang jaman dulu menonton film warnanya kayak gini (sekarang) ya?”; hingga terakhir, “apakah alur cerita film yang saya tonton ini sama seperti film yang diproduksi zaman dulu?” Untuk film di Indonesia yang telah direstorasi, saya semakin spesifik, “bukankah Indonesia terletak di wilayah tropis sehingga mau tak mau ia akan berpengaruh pada cahaya yang jatuh ke kamera? Tetapi mengapa hasil film yang telah direstorasi justru warnanya tidak menonjolkan teriknya cuaca di tanah Jawa?” Pertanyaan-pertanyaan ini muncul setelah saya merefleksikan pengalaman menonton beberapa film yang telah direstorasi maupun didigitalisasi, termasuk Shiraz: a Romance of India.

Seluloid punya batasnya sendiri. Digital bukan penyelamat. 

Berdasarkan wawancara saya dengan mbak Lisabona Rahman (see this link) ada banyak hal yang harus dia lakukan saat proses restorasi. Pertama tentu saja membersihkan seluloid, memperbaiki yang rusak, ataupun menyambung pita yang sobek. Kemudian mbak Lisa juga perlu melakukan kroscek data hingga melihat kembali naskah film. Butuh ketelitian dan imajinasi. Ketelitian untuk berpijak pada data, sehingga nantinya ketika film yang telah direstorasi telah ditayangkan ke publik, maka tidak akan ada yang nyeletuk, “salah ini adegannya!”. Imajinasi karena bagi saya proyek restorasi adalah memberikan nafas baru pada karya-karya yang telah “mati”. 

Kita kembali ke Shiraz: a Romance of India. Secara visual hasil restorasi itu jelas. Sebagai penonton kita membandingkan film sebelum dan sesudah restorasi (lihat link ini). Gambar yang terlalu gelap membuat penonton tidak bisa melihat dengan jelas wajah si karakter misalnya, dipoles dan diperjelas. Thanks to color grading technology! Untuk film Shiraz: a Romance of India, BFI London tidak hanya fokus pada aspek visual tapi juga mengkreasi scoring musik. BFI London meminta Anoushka Shankar, pemain sitar dan komposer, untuk membuat scoring

“wow… filmnya benar-benar baru!” 

Upaya untuk mengawinkan antara sound dan image tentu dibuat dengan banyak pertimbangan. Salah satunya adalah trend di masa sekarang, saat penonton lebih bergantung pada sound daripada image. Hal ini ditegaskan oleh Robert Stam dalam Film Theory: An Introduction bahwa kecenderungan film sekarang justru menggunakan sound untuk menyetir emosi penonton. Sepuluh menit pertama film ini, saya masih bisa menikmati gambar Shiraz: a Romance of India yang telah direstorasi dan alunan sitar digabung dengan beberapa alat musik modern lain hasil komposisi Anoushka Shankar. Tetapi setelahnya saya gelisah. Image Shiraz: a Romance of India, bagi saya, sudah kuat untuk menyampaikan emosi dan jalan cerita pada penonton. Sedangkan scoring baru ini terkadang mengganggu. Gambar sudah dramatis, musik semakin dramatis. Akhirnya, saya pun memilih untuk mematikan sound film dan menikmati visualnya saja. Sebuah pengkhianatan tentunya karena saya mendua dari Shiraz: a Romance of India versi restorasi ini. 

Coda

Melihat film klasik hasil restorasi dan digitalisasi sebenarnya adalah melihat kelahiran sinema. Hal ini ditegaskan oleh Laura Mulvey dalam Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image, kehadiran digital memang menandai kematian seluloid tapi ia juga turut berperan dalam melahirkan kembali film klasik dengan nafas baru. Shiraz: a Romance of India saya katakan cukup beruntung mendapatkan kesempatan untuk terlahir kembali, menjumpai penonton-penonton baru yang memiliki kultur yang berbeda dari generasi sebelumnya. Tidak seperti Loetoeng Kasaroeng (L. Heuveldorp, 1926) yang dibuat semasa Hindia Belanda dan nasibnya tidak jelas: tertimbun tumpukan film atau terbakar karena cuaca tropis yang panas? Film ini proses produksinya mirip dengan Shiraz: a Romance of India. Pekerja teknis merupakan orang Eropa, sedangkan pemain dan lokasi ada di Hindia Belanda dan produsernya seorang regent dari Bandung, Wiranatakusumah. Meskipun ada satu film dari masa Hindia Belanda yang masih bisa diakses, Pareh (Albert Balink dan Mannus Franken, 1936), tetap nasibnya tidak “semulus” hasil polesan para ahli restorasi film. Pareh justru hadir dengan bebas, meskipun warna filmnya menjadi putih, hitam keunguan – bukan hitam dan putih. 

Terakhir, trend digitalisasi dan restorasi film klasik akan semakin meningkat, meskipun tidak seideal sebagaimana ekspektasi para pegiat perfilman dan pengarsip. Selain harganya yang mahal, teknologi yang masih jarang, serta butuhnya ketelitian tukang restorasi dan data yang “valid”, para penggiat restorasi dan digitalisasi masih sedikit. Semoga ke depan, banyak anak-anak muda yang tertarik dan mau menjadi the next Lisabona Rahman atau the Next Render Digital Indonesia. 

Shiraz: a Romance of India
at some point, Shiraz: a Romance of India is heavily contains the “orientalist” view on the Eastern culture. For example, it used the Harem to imply the characteristic of Prince Khurram or the slaves trade in the beginning of film. But still, this is importance film because it will reminds the next generation to be careful to make a film about the east.

English

In the beginning was admiration. The presence of a  restoration film to the public certainly brings a kind of nostalgic feeling, wanting to return to the past. Moreover, finding a film that is technically good, with good storytelling, I immediately want to say say, “Classic films are the best.” Like when I saw Shiraz: a Romance of India (1928), I was amazed by choreography on war and how the film team was able to arrange dozens of people into frames or ask elephants to step on the head of main character. 

British Film Institute (BFI) restored and premiered it at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival. The film was included in the online film festival We Are One a Global Film Festival 2020 on 29 May – 7 June 2020.

Shiraz: a Romance of India directed by Franz Osten, a German director. In 1907, Osten began his career in the film world by establishing a cinema around the Original Physograph Company. Together with his brother, Peter Ostemayr, Osten founded Bavaria Film Studios, the largest studio in Germany and produced some films such as The Deep (Orson Welles, 1967) and The Serpent’s Egg (Ingmar Bergman, 1977). Before going to India, Osten had made a long film titled Erna Valeska (1911).

Osten’s collaboration with Indian people happened since The Light of Asia (1924). Osten got an offer from Himanshu Rai, an Indian film pioneer, to produce films that could be consumed by audiences all over the world. Rai acted as producer, screenwriter, and main character. If Osten has more to do with technical matters, then Rai provides actors and looks for locations to shoot. The Light of Asia, Shiraz: a Romance of India, and a Throw of Dice (1928) inspired by the Mahabharata story, is a silent film trilogy created by the collaboration of Osten and Rai and serves to introduce “the eastern values” into cinema.

Story of Shiraz: a Romance of India

Shiraz (Himanshu Rai) grew up as a brother to Selima (Enaksih Roma Rau), a girl of royal descent who suffered misfortune when her family traveled. Over time, Shiraz fell in love with Selima. He promised to always protect his lover. When Selima was abducted and sold to the slave market, Shiraz followed him. Selima was bought by royal servants. Prince Khurram, who would later be known as Shah Janan the Emperor of the Mughal Empire, fell in love with Selima’s beauty and tenderness. Selima and Khurram are married, Shiraz can only see his beloved happiness from a distance. After Selima’s death, Khurram made a contest for anyone who was able to design a building that represented the beauty of his late wife. It turned out that only Shiraz, even though he was blind but the craftmanship still remains, was able to create a design that Khurram agreed to. Finally they worked together to build the Taj Mahal.

Prince Khurram: “You know I can take whatever I want?”

Selima: “But you don’t have the power to take my heart”.

This film is set in the making of the Taj Mahal. However, there are some things that are far different from the historical version of the Mughal Empire. If in historical records, Prince Khurram married Mumtaz Mahal as his second wife; in this film Selima is the only legitimate wife. Selima is said to be a royal lineage, but he must be left by his family to die and live with a family making pottery. Shiraz’s own figure is probably a fictional character created by Rai. Making this kind of character can be used to make the story line more dramatic. But on the other hand, this strategy indicates that the narrative about the Mughal Empire which is centered on the story of the aristocracy was changed to discuss the role of the common people who helped build the kingdom.

The Unspeakable from the Film Restoration and Digitalization Program

When viewing films that have been restored or digitized, my question then develops, “do people in old times watch color films like this (now) huh?”; to , “is the storyline of the film I watch like the film produced in the past?” For films in Indonesia that have been restored, I become more specific, “Isn’t Indonesia located in a tropical region so that inevitably it will affect the light that falls on the camera? But why the results of the film that has been restored precisely the color does not accentuate the hot weather in Java? ” These questions arise after I reflect on the experience of watching several films that have been restored or digitized, including Shiraz: a Romance of India.

Celluloid has its own limits. Digital is not a savior.

Based on my interview with Lisabona Rahman (see this link) there are many things she must do during the restoration process. First, of course, cleaning celluloid, repairing damaged, or connecting a torn ribbon. Then Lisa also needs to cross-check the data to look back at the film script. Need accuracy and imagination. Accuracy to stand on the data, so that later when the restored film has been aired to the public, then no one will say, “this is the wrong scene!”. Imagination because for me the restoration project is to give new breath to works that have been “died”.

We return to Shiraz: a Romance of India. Visually the results of the restoration are clear. As viewers we compare films before and after restoration (see this link). Images that are too dark make the audience unable to clearly see the character’s face become polished and clarified. Thanks to color grading technology! For the film Shiraz: a Romance of India, BFI London does not only focus on the visual aspect but also creates music scoring. BFI London asked Anoushka Shankar, a zither player and composer, to make a scoring for each scene. 

“Wow … the film is totally new!”

The effort to combine sound and image is certainly made with a lot of consideration. One of them is the current trend when the audience is more dependent on sound rather than image. This was confirmed by Robert Stam in Film Theory: An Introduction that the tendency of films now actually uses sound to drive the emotions of the audience. The first ten minutes of this film, I can still enjoy the image of Shiraz: a Romance of India that has been restored and the strains of the sitar combined with several other modern musical instruments produced by Anoushka Shankar’s composition. But after that I was nervous. Images of Shiraz: a Romance of India, for me, is strong enough to convey emotions and storyline to the audience. While this new scoring is sometimes annoying. The images are already dramatic, the music is more dramatic. Finally, I chose to turn off the sound of the film and just pay attention to the visuals. A betrayal to the Shiraz: a Romance of India version of this restoration.

Coda

Seeing the classic film of the results of restoration and digitalization is actually seeing the birth of cinema. This was confirmed by Laura Mulvey in Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image, the digital presence did mark the death of celluloid but he also played a role in rebirth of classic films with a new breath. 

I would say that  Shiraz: a Romance of India is lucky enough to have the opportunity to be reborn, meet new audiences who have a different culture from the previous generation. Unlike Loetoeng Kasaroeng (L. Heuveldorp, 1926), which was made during the Dutch East Indies and his fate is unclear: buried in a pile of films or burnt due to hot tropical weather? * This film has a production process similar to Shiraz: a Romance of India. The technical workers are European, while the players and locations are in the Dutch East Indies and the producer is a regent from Bandung, Wiranatakusumah. Although there is one film from the Dutch East Indies period that can still be accessed, Pareh (Albert Balink and Mannus Franken, 1936), his fate is still not “as smooth” as the results of the film restoration expert’s polish. Pareh actually comes freely, even though the color of the film is white, purplish black – not black and white.

Finally, the trend of digitalization and restoration of classic films will increase, although not as ideal as the expectations of film and archiving activists. In addition to the expensive price, the technology that is still rare, and the need for accuracy of restorative and “valid” data, there are still few activists of restoration and digitalization. Hopefully in the future, many young people will be interested and want to be the next Lisabona Rahman or the Next Render Digital Indonesia.

Book Sources

Mulvey Laura. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image.

Stam, Robert. Moving Theory: an Introduction.

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