Sikkim Banned

Historical ban on Satyajit Ray's Sikkim

18th September

Royal Scraps...

India unbans Satyajit Ray's Sikkim

India has finally lifted the ban on a documentary film made on the Himalayan state of Sikkim by the legendary director Satyajit Ray, his family said.

The film was banned after Sikkim merged with India under controversial circumstances in 1975.

It was made 40 years ago when Sikkim was an independent kingdom - Sikkim's last ruler Palden Thondup Namgyal commissioned the film to woo tourists.

Ray died in April 1992 after receiving an Oscar for lifetime achievement.

His son, Sandip Ray, also a film-maker, told the BBC that he was delighted that the ban on the documentary - called Sikkim - had been lifted.

When the film was completed, the king and his wife were reportedly furious - especially over a shot that showed poor people scrambling for leftover food behind the royal palace in the capital, Gangtok.

My father was asked to drop some shots and redo the final product, said Sandip Ray. He did that but the situation changed. By the time the final cut emerged, Sikkim had been merged with Indian under rather controversial circumstances in 1975. Unsure how the people of Sikkim would react to the controversial shots in the film, the Indian government decided to ban Sikkim.

Except for a private screening by my father, the film has not been seen by anybody else, Ray said. The two existing copies of the film are in the US and the British Film Institute.


14th November

Update: Culturally Banned...

Satyajit Ray's Sikkim unbanned but not allowed to be shown

Satyajit Ray's historic documentary Sikkim had its screening cancelled on Thursday at the Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) after being banned by a court order citing violation of copyright laws.

A District Judge ordered the stay on a petition by Atul Kaura, secretary of Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim, an NGO supposedly working for the preservation of ethnic Sikkimese art and culture.

The film cannot be screened without our permission when the copyright is with us. Even the censor certificates are with us, where we have been credited as the producers of the film, Ugyen Chopel, managing trustee of the body, said.

Claiming exclusive possession of a sole 35 mm print and two DVD versions of the film, he alleged that the film festival authorities were showing a pirated version of the documentary.

We have cancelled all the screenings as of now. But we will challenge the decision in the court, KFF director Nilanjan Chatterjee said.

The 52-minute documentary, commissioned by the last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, has remained shrouded in controversy ever since it was made by the Oscar winning director in 1971. The Chogyals first banned the film after a few scenes went against their liking. When the Himalayan kingdom merged with India in 1975, the Indian government also banned it.

In 2000, the copyright of the film was transferred to the Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim. A damaged print of the film was restored by the Ganktok-based trust in 2002 with the support of The Academy of Motion Pictures, Art and Science in California.


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