Ray's Sikkim 'premiere' on April 6

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  • Published 4.04.11

Gangtok, April 3: Satyajit Ray’s Sikkim is set for its “world premiere” here on Wednesday, 40 years after it was commissioned by the last ruler of the Himalayan kingdom.

The Art and Culture Trust (ACT) of Sikkim is organising the show, which will be attended by governor Balmiki Prasad Singh as the chief guest.

“The purpose of the film, we believe, was to showcase Sikkim to the world. This could happen 40 years after it was made. The film will finally see the light of the day,” said ACT managing trustee and filmmaker Ugyen Chopel.

The screening had been originally scheduled for April 4 to synchronise with the birth anniversary of the late Chogyal, Palden Thondup Namgyal, who had commissioned the film in 1971. However, the 48-hour bandh called by the SDF forced the organisers to postpone the show to April 6.

The one-hour long documentary will have only one show at Vajra cinema hall at 5.30pm. Bollywood actor and director Tinu Anand who had assisted Ray in the film’s production, and cinematographer of the documentary Soumendu Ray, will be present at the show. The duo will share with the audience their experiences while making the film.

Sikkim had shot to international limelight when Ray was given an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at his hospital bed in 1991. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, California, had held a retrospective festival of his works and Sikkim was the only film, which could not be screened. Thus, Sikkim came to be known as Ray’s “lost film” as it appeared that nobody had a print of the film and the negative was missing.

Sometime in 2002, the royal family of Sikkim donated a cache of items, including documents, letters, photographs and films, to the ACT. A 35mm print of Sikkim was among them but it was in very bad shape — colour completely faded and the sound unclear.

The trust then got in touch with the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Centre and sent the print to the Academy for restoration. It took eight long years for the Academy to finish the work and the restored print reached the trust in September last year.

However, the trust was shocked to find that the Calcutta Film Festival organisers had decided to screen Sikkim without its permission. A Sikkim court stayed the screening, but the film was shown on the last day of the festival with the consent of the trust. There were also reports of the documentary being screened in a couple of festivals.

“But all those screenings were held with half-restored DVD prints of poor quality. April 6 will be the date of the official world premiere of Sikkim in fully restored celluloid print,” said Chopel.

“The documentary portrays the people of Sikkim, its villages and flora and fauna, in the baritone voice of the great Ray who has also composed the music. It took one year to shoot the film and there are songs in local languages,” he added.