Sandip Ray calls for copy of Satyajit Ray's 'Sikkim'

MUMBAI: After four decades, the external affairs ministry has decided to lift the ban on the Satyajit Ray documentary, Sikkim, made in 1971 and allowed the film for public screening.

But there‘s a hitch. The original negative has withered away. But a print has been partly restored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

"If we can acquire the print from the Academy, we can formally release the film here in India," asserts Sandip Ray, director-son of Satyajit Ray.

The film had been commissioned by the last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, and his American-born wife Hope Cooke. "It was actually the Chogyal‘s American wife who wanted Ray to make a documentary on Sikkim," avers Sandip.

However, when the film was completed after "being shot for three different seasons", the Chogyal was upset about some of the candid reality portrayed in it. It included the Sikkim‘s poor alongside the grandeur of the royalty. In one of his shots. Ray, for instance, showed the poor scrambling for leftover food dumped behind the palace after a grand royal dinner.

When the royal couple viewed the film in Kolkata for the first time, they were unhappy about such shots and ordered cuts, says Sandip. "Baba (My father) was "unhappy with the final cut," he sighs.

After Sikkim was merged with India in 1975, it was still considered a sensitive region and the Centre decided to ban the film that was commissioned by the monarchy as a result of which there was no screening of the film in India.

Now after 40 years the external affairs ministry has lifted the ban and allowed the film to be screened.

Sandip recollects that he had seen the restored copy a few years ago at the Nantes Three Continents Film Festival in France and has called for the copy. He hopes to acquire a copy and screen it on his father‘s 90th birth anniversary on 2 May next year.

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