It’s taken four decades for the union government to lift the ban on Satyajit Ray’s documentary, Sikkim. It was made the at the behest of the then king (Chogyal). Sikkim has never been shown in India as queen Hope Cooke took home a print and never returned it.
Ray’s son, Sandip, also a filmmaker, says, “The original negative perished long ago. But a print has been partly restored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences. Also, I believe there’s one at London’s Brown University.” Sandip is not sure if Sikkim will now be screened abroad: “If the print is acquired from the Academy and a restored copy is sent to us, we could do a formal screening in India.”
He recalls that since the film was the Chogyal’s production, it was well coordinated, and his father had access to many restricted areas to film it.
“He covered three seasons. I went for one of them to Gangtok with Baba. We shot everywhere, even in places like Lachen where there was no electricity. My father was very upset when the ban was imposed,” reminisces Sandip, who spotted the second Sikkim print in Gangtok in 2003.
“The print was so damaged that it could not be run on a projector. I sent it to the Academy Archives,” he informs.
Sandip saw the restored copy a few years back at the Nantes Three Continents Film Festival in France. He hopes to acquire a copy, and screen it on Satyajit Ray’s 90th birth anniversary on May 2, next year.