South Asia

Ban on Satyajit Ray film lifted

Satyajit Ray
Image caption Satyajit Ray was one of the greatest Indian film-makers

India has finally lifted the ban on a documentary film made on the Himalayan state of Sikkim by the legendary director Satyajit Ray, his family said.

The film was banned after Sikkim merged with India under controversial circumstances in 1975.

It was made 40 years ago when Sikkim was an independent kingdom - Sikkim's last ruler Palden Thondup Namgyal commissioned the film to woo tourists.

Mr Ray died in April 1992 after receiving an Oscar for lifetime achievement.

His son, Sandip Ray, also a film-maker, told the BBC that he was delighted that the ban on the documentary - called Sikkim - had been lifted.

"I hope the documentary is screened soon," he said.

"I have fond memories of the shooting in different seasons, going up and down the hills with the equipment and staying in the royal palace.

"My father was a great friend of the king's American wife Hope Cooke and she was instrumental in getting him involved."


When the film was completed, the king and his wife were reportedly furious - especially over a shot that showed poor people scrambling for leftover food behind the royal palace in the capital, Gangtok.

"My father was asked to drop some shots and redo the final product," said Sandip Ray. "He did that but the situation changed."

By the time the final cut emerged, Sikkim had been merged with Indian under rather controversial circumstances in 1975.

Unsure how the people of Sikkim would react to the controversial shots in the film, the Indian government decided to ban Sikkim.

"Except for a private screening by my father, the film has not been seen by anybody else," Mr Ray said.

The two existing copies of the film are in the US and the British Film Institute.

It is not yet clear when the first screening of Sikkim will be held, but an official said it could take a few months.

Sikkim is believed to be a personal favourite of actor Sir Richard Attenborough, who made it available for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences in 2003 for preservation and restoration.

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