Utpal Borpujari

October 7, 2010

Ray’s ‘Sikkim’ to have its 1st India screening on Oct 27

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.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 06-10-2010)


June 9, 2009

Sad it took so long for IIT-IIM alumni to become MP: Rai

By Utpal Borpujari

This first-time MP from the tiny state of Sikkim has already created a record of sorts in the 15th Lok Sabha, but for him it is “damn sad” that he is the one to have done that.

The man we are talking about is Prem Das Rai, the lone MP from Sikkim, and the record he has set is that he is the first Member of Parliament who is an alumni of both IIT and IIM.

It is a kind of qualification that legions in India can die for, so why is Rai sad? “Well, I am sad and disappointed that it took so long for an IIT-IIM alumni to get into Lok Sabha, because I firmly believe that there should be many more people in public life from such institutions,” Rai tells Deccan Herald.

There have been IITians and IIM graduates in Parliament earlier, but this is the first ever time that someone with both IIT and IIM degrees in his kitty has done so. Rai had done his B.Tech in chemical engineering from IIT-Kanpur in 1976, followed by an MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad in 1978. He has also been a winner of the Eisenhower Fellowships in the United States in 2000.

Rai has clear ideas about how he would utilise his qualifications as an MP. “The more you talk of technology, the more you talk of better processes. Even the President’s address to Parliament that day spoke a great deal about accountability, specially in the government’s flagship programmes. It is in this that managerial capabilities of people like us can come in handy to ensure accountability through efficient implementation,” he says.

Programmes like the NREGA, he says, could be act as real social safety nets for the poorest of the poor of the country through an accountable implementation process.

But the Sikkim Democratic Front MP does not believe that anyone coming to public life should necessarily have a minimum educational qualification, if not a brilliant academic record like himself.

“I don’t believe in that, as in the rough and tumble of politics, I have seen that some of our finest brains, who perhaps did not get the necessary access to education, have shone in public life. Take my own chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling for example, who I think in terms of political acumen and in terms of vision is second to none in this country,” he says.

At the same time, Rai does not believe that the recent trend of qualified professionals forming their own outfits to contest elections, or that of some of them contesting as independents,  would prove to be fruitful ideas.

“While we cannot say that their efforts are wasted, as politics is a continuous learning process, the plurality of India would not allow for such outfits to be successful. You have this party of IITians – it is one of those elitist views as if only the IITians can save India,” he says.

Instead, such people, “who do believe that they need to change India or need to add their might for building the nation”, should funnel their energies through a political party, he says.

“A political party may not be the ideal mechanism, but nothing is ideal in this world. If you don’t have a political party behind you, you will end up losing than winning more often. A party is necessary. I would have never fought as an independent,” he says.

Coming from the North-East, Rai believes that the states in the region have been victims of their small size when it comes to getting ministerial berths at the Centre.

“Sikkim, since the time it got integrated with India, has never had a minister at the Centre. Yes, states like Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh do feel marginalized, though this time Meghalaya has got a bumber harvest,” he says.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 08-06-2009)


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