New Delhi, Oct 27: The first ever public screening of the Satyajit Ray’s documentary “Sikkim” (earlier banned) happens in New Delhi.
The documentary “Sikkim” made by the legendary Satyajit Ray was screened on Tuesday in New Delhi at the Indian International Centre (IIC). The screening became all the more important because of the controversies attached to it. iSikkim team had the privilege to be present at the first ever public screening of the movie in India after 40 years.
The documentary was screened as part of the ongoing programme “Festival of Arts” at IIC. The documentary made in the year 1975 was banned by the Indian Government after annexation of Sikkim in the Indian Union.
The documentary started amid the melody of flute played by a monk. It was followed by shots of the flora, fauna, river falls and natural beauty of the state. Next came the close up and then long shot of two young ladies under an umbrella in a drizzling weather.
“In the place of mountains today, there was a giant sea….” the narration starts in a mild baritone voice. The narration is done by none other than Satyajit Ray himself, as colourful shots of the mighty Himalayas and the venerable Kanchendzonga kept coming. One of the memorable lines of the introduction about Sikkim: “What it lacks in size, it makes up in the vanguard of beauty.” The first 15-20 min. of the documentary talks about geographical and economical aspects of Sikkim. It talks in detail about Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim. All these are shown with attractive visuals of people, markets, cultural festivals and folk songs in background.
The beauty of the Ray lies in capturing the life of the people. Smiling kids, happy village folks, busy market places and the shots of religious celebrations…the simplicity of the narration and the visuals in the movie is simply delightful.
The middle of the documentary majorly focuses on different aspects of Sikkimese life and the story of the Chogyals. Shots of Lal Bazzar on a Sunday morning are captivating and show different colours of Sikkim.
The last part of the documentary talks about the then King Palden Thondup Namgyal and his American wife Hoope Cooke. There are shot of celebrations and life inside the palace; the King presiding over annual festival and enjoying fan fare, queen attending the cultural programme at school and the Royal Parties.
The celebrations of Tibetan New Year Losar dominate the end of the documentary. The celebrations which starts a month before the New Year culminates with cultural programmes inside the Place.
The documentary has no controversial shots and is purely apolitical. The print is not of good quality with colours faded and images blurred; still it succeeds in showing the spirit of the documentary. Though it is beyond comprehension why the documentary was banned in the first place.
The scenic beauty of Sikkim is immeasurable and is very well captured from film camera. The programme coordinator at IIC, Indrani Mukherjee said, “We got these prints from private sources and since the documentary was in tune with our ongoing festival, we screened it”.
The remarks from the audiences remained mixed. A frequent socialite of Delhi said, “I was expecting a lot. Documentary is good but remains sort of Satayjit Ray’s caliber. But the beauty captured is un-debatable”.
Mohit, an MBA student of IIPM, who watched the documentary said, “I came here because I had heard a lot about Satyajit Ray and the controversy. But there is nothing political in it and has been beautifully made.”
Ray’s Sikkim screening on Oct 27 in Delhi