Sikkim (1971) – a Documentary Directed and Written by Satyajit Ray

Sikkim (1971) – Documentary synopsis:

This is a 1971 Indian documentary about the nation of Sikkim, directed and written by Satyajit Ray. This documentary was commissioned by the Chogyal (King) of Sikkim at a time when he felt the sovereignty of Sikkim was under threat from both China and India. Ray’s documentary is about the sovereignty of Sikkim. The film was banned by the government of India, when Sikkim merged with India in 1975. In 2000, the copyright of the film was transferred to the Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim.

There had been requests from the international film community and from Indians across the world for lifting the ban. After the government overturned the ban, the restored copy reached the Gangtok-based Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim in September 2010, which has earlier received the prints and right for the film in 2000.

Amidst a lot of controversies, this was finally screened at a film festival at Kolkata in Nandan in Nov 2010. People waited hours and sat on the movie hall floors to watch the single screening of this movie. This was again removed after a single show, as a Sikkim court ordered a stay on the screening of this documentary.

No critics have seen the film, but Ray described it in the following way: “While they’re reaching this point, I cut to a shot of a piece of telegraph wire. It’s raining and there are two drops of rain approaching on a downward curve. It’s a very poetic seven minutes. And the end is also very lively, very optimistic, with children, happy, laughing, smoking, singing. The whole thing builds up into a paean of praise for the place.” The documentary was screened for public viewing for the first time in 39 years at the 16th Kolkata Film Festival.

Mathures Paul of The Statesman wrote in his review, “Sandwiched between Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha and Asani Sanket, this land is beautiful, more an essay from a respected travel journal from Ray’s era accompanied by detailed photographs that graced magazines like Life”.

If someone doesn’t know, now (also known as Shikim or Su Khyim) is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan Mountains. The state is bordered by Nepal to the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south. With 610,577 inhabitants as of the 2011 census, Sikkim is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa in total area, covering approximately 7,096 km2.

According to legend, Padmasambhava visited this country in the 8th century AD, introduced Buddhism and foretold the era of the Sikkimese monarchy. Namgyal dynasty was established in 1642.

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