Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ray’s Sikkim film sees light of day after 29 years

Gangtok:The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently lifted the ban on Satyajit Ray’s documentary film, Sikkim (1971). Though official sources in the MEA confirm the lifting of the ban on public screening of the film, nobody is willing to go on record. The 60-minute documentary was lying in cold storage after its screening was banned by the government since Sikkim was not officially merged with the Union of India by then.

The two prints of the film are in the US and the British Film Institute. It is believed that the film is a personal favourite of Richard Attenborough, and he made it available for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences in 2003 to preserve and restore the documentary.

The film will be made available for public screening through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. However, official sources in the ministry say they are not aware of any such developments.

The film was a dream project of the last Chogyal of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, who came to power in 1965 and commissioned the documentary as a means to promote tourism. “His wife, Hope Cooke, was a great fan of my father. She had recommended my father to the king, who asked him to make a documentary on the region,” recalls Ray’s son and filmmaker Sandip Ray, who was 17 at the time of the shooting. During the shooting, Ray stayed at the royal palace in Gangtok.

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