Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The `Sikkim' wrangle

Rupa Ganguly at 2007 KFF
Farewell Party at Hotel Hyatt
Today, at the Jaipur airport, I heard that a court order had stayed further screening of Satyajit Ray's 1971 documentary Sikkim at Nandan. My friend Roopa Ganguly called up to ask me if I were hosting the annual Film Festival Farewell Party on November 17th.
When I informed her about the stay order she was rather surprised. She is spending most of her time in Mumbai for the past 3 or 4 years but made it a point to regularly attend the Film Festival Farewell Party each year. In fact, we co-hosted the farewell at the ITC Sonar Bangla banquet Pala in 2006. In 2007 the Party was held at the Hyatt poolside in which Roopa had rendered a performance.
Aparna Sen at the 2006 KFF
Farewell Party in Pala, ITC
I had been thinking about the screening of Ray's documentary Sikkim. The 60-minute film was screened for the public at the 16th Kolkata Film Festival in Nandan today for the first time in India after 39 years.
But KFF's plan to screen the documentary every day till the conclusion of the festival on November 17th hit a legal wall and further screening of the film was stopped by a court order issued by a Sikkim district judge on a petition filed by ACT.
The Gangtok-based Art & Cultural Trust (ACT) bought the legal rights for the film in 2000 from the Chogyals - the former princely ruler of Sikkim - who had commissioned the film.
Rituparna, Biplab at 2006
KFF Farewell Party, ITC
Except a screening for the Chogyal family, the film never got formally released. A restored version was shown in 2008 during a "Ray Retrospective" at the Nantes Three Continents Film Festival in France.
Madhu and Harsh Neotia at the
2006 KFF Farewell Party, ITC
The film underwent censorship from the film's commissioners and the Indian government, when Sikkim became a state of India in 1975. The Indian government had banned the documentary and all known copies of it destroyed. For many years it was considered to be lost. In 2003 it was known that a good quality print of the film was with the British Film Institute. Another print is said to be in the USA.
It is believed that the film was a favourite of Richard Attenborough, and he made it available for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences in 2003 to preserve and restore the documentary. After 35 years, the Ministry of External Affairs lifted the ban in September 2010 and a restored copy of the film reached ACT in September 2010.
Raza Murad at the 2007 Farewell Party
The current interim injunction by the court has stayed the screenings. It has been alleged that the film was shown on Thursday without Central Board certification and it was an unauthorised or `pirated' version of the film. ACT, which has the film's copyright, had special plans for a world premier for the documentary in March 2011.
As it is I am missing all the films and the Party in Nandan this year, but still the litigation and stay on screening of Sikkim wasn't heartening news.
ess bee

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