Source : Reuters
The Oscars academy has restored a rare print of a controversial film by India’s famed director Satyajit Ray that was banned by Indian censors for glorifying monarchy in a Himalayan kingdom that acceded to India.
Made in 1971, “Sikkim” was about the Himalayan redoubt of the same name ruled by the Chogyals before it acceded to India in 1975 amid some criticism that New Delhi had browbeaten its tiny neighbour. China opposed India’s claim on Sikkim until 2005.
Sikkim is now India’s second smallest state, wedged between Nepal, China and Bhutan, and is strategically important for New Delhi.
Ray scholars say the Indian government’s fears that the documentary depicted monarchy in a way that undermined democracy — at a time when Sikkim faced being annexed by either India or China — was unfounded.
“To imagine Satyajit Ray would glorify monarchy over democracy is utterly wrong because he is the same person who could make films ridiculing monarchy as we see in ‘Hirak Rajar Deshe’,” said Arup K. De, head of the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films.
It was thought that all the prints of the hour-long documentary had been destroyed after it was banned by India.
But one was found at the British Film Institute in 2003 and it was restored digitally frame-by-frame by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Audiences in India can watch “Sikkim” for the first time at the 14th Kolkata Film Festival beginning next week. India lifted the ban about four years ago, Sikkim’s art and culture trust said.
“If everything works out, the video version would be shown at the Kolkata Film Festival,” Josef Lindner, the academy’s preservation officer, told Reuters.
“The 35 mm version would be ready by end of the year.”
The academy has undertaken to restore damaged prints of the films of Satyajit Ray, who was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1992. He received the honour on his death-bed in a hospital in Kolkata.
Lindner said Ray’s “Shatranj Ke Khiladi” (The Chess Players), made in 1977, would be restored next.
The academy has so far restored and preserved 15 of Ray’s feature films and two documentaries, including “Sikkim”.
Ray shot to global fame with “Pather Panchali” (Song of the Little Road), “Aparajito” (The Unvanquished) and “Apur Sansar” (The World of Apu) from his “Apu trilogy” — a coming-of-age narrative describing the childhood, education and early maturity of a young Bengali boy in the early 20th century.
He directed several other films and wrote many books, some of them widely translated into other languages.