Utpal Borpujari

December 1, 2008

Restored Sikkim docu by Ray likely to have world premiere in Gangtok in Feb

By Utpal Borpujari 

Notwithstanding the fiasco at the 14th Kolkata Film Festival where it was not screened following ‘confusion’ over the status of the ban on it, the fully-restored version of Satyajit Ray’s unseen documentary Sikkim is likely to have its world premiere at Sikkimese capital Gangtok in February. 

NGO Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim (ACTS), the right holders of the film, is expecting to receive the restored 35 mm print of the film from the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences of the US towards mid-December and is planning to have the world premiere sometime in February.

The DVD version of the film, which was originally thought to have been lost before it came to the Trust in 2000 as part of a bunch of cultural artefacts handed over to it for preservation, was scheduled for a screening at the just-concluded KFF.

But it got cancelled as there was confusion on whether the 1975 ban still stood even though the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had given a ‘U’ certificate for “unrestricted public viewing” of the film in 2002.

“While the festival had got a DVD version, we are expecting the receive the fully-restored 35 mm print sometime in December, and we are considering a world premiere around February,”  ACTS secretay Atul Kaura told Sakaal Times from Gangtok.

Kaura, who refused to comment on the KFF fiasco, said ACTS had received the copyright to the film. “We had sent the DVD to KFF through the Ray Society following a request from both the festival organisers and the American Centre,” he said.

“There should not be any controversy regarding this film made by India’s best-known master,” he said.

Meanwhile, CBFC sources told Sakaal Times that “technically” the film could be shown anywhere following its certification. “The ban was imposed because of certain reasons during the time when Sikkim became a part of India. More than three decades have passed since then, and the lifiting of the ban is more of a matter of technicality,” the sources admitted.

The 60-minute film was commissioned and produced by the then Chogyal (ruler of Sikkim) in 1971, but was banned when Sikkim acceded to India in 1975 as it purportedly ‘highlighted’ the monarchy.

However, Arup De, head of the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films, has been earlier quoted as refuting the contention. “”To imagine that Satyajit Ray would glorify monarchy over democracy is utterly wrong because he is the same person who could make films ridiculing monarchy as we see in Hirak Rajar Deshe,” he said in a recent interview.

It was thought that all the prints of the hour-long documentary had been destroyed after it was banned by India. The only print of the film was found at the British Film Institute in 2003 and is being restored digitally by the Oscar Academy.

The Academy had earlier decided to restore damaged prints of all Ray films after he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1992. Till now, it has been reported to have restored 15 of his films.

(Published in Sakaal Times, www.sakaaltimes.com, http://epaper.sakaaltimes.com, 22-11-2008)

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