By Utpal Borpujari
Satyajit Ray’s Sikkim, which till recently had remained banned, would have its first-ever screening in India on October 27 in Delhi.
The screening will be a major highlight of The IIC Experience, the annual festival of the arts organised by the India International Centre in the capital.
Incidentally, the film, banned in 1975, was technically legally viewable in India after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had given a ‘U’ certificate for “unrestricted public viewing” to film in 2002.
However, since there was no concrete announcement regarding the status of the ban from the government, nobody had tried to screen it in India even after that CBFC certification.
The only attempt at screening, at the 14th Kolkata Film Festival in 2008, too was cancelled at the last moment because of the confusion over whether the ban stood or not.
The rights of the film lie with an NGO called Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim (ACTS), and the only restored 35 mm print of the film has been with the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences of the US.
The IIC screening will be of the 60-minute film’s DVD version, and not of the original 35 mm version, that was made by Ray at the invitation of the then Chogyal (ruler of Sikkim) in 1971.
The film 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 quoted saying that ”to imagine that 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.”
It was thought that all the prints of the hour-long documentary had been destroyed after it was banned by India. The only two prints of the film are with the British Film Institute and the Academy.
The IIC festival this year focuses on the theme “The Forest”, and a number of acclaimed films surrounding this theme would be screened during October 21-27, including Sikkim.