‘Lost’ Sikkim arrives, prints ready for Singapore show

‘Lost’ Sikkim arrives, prints ready for Singapore show – lost & found ?!!

The Chogyals’ palace in Gangtok. (Prabin Khaling) - simple and humble ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 20: Satyajit Ray’s “lost” documentary Sikkim reached the Himalayan state on September 11 and is now being readied for a preview screening at the Singapore Museum on October 16.

The 35mm documentary was commissioned by the Chogyals, the last rulers of Sikkim, in 1971 and its prints and rights were given to the Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim in 2000.

The trust received it from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after restoration almost a week ago.

“The film had been commissioned by the last Chogyal of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, four years before the kingdom became the 22nd state of India in 1975.

As the documentary was made during a period of transition in Sikkim, the film never got formally released and the prints became bad. Everyone assumed that the documentary had been banned because it had to do with the monarchy,” said Ugyen Chopel, a filmmaker and a managing trustee of the trust.

Chopel said he had seen the film and it records Sikkim’s history and showcases the state’s natural beauty. “There are five reels and the film is 55-minute long and is in colour. The best part is that the entire commentary in English was rendered by the maestro himself in his unforgettable baritone voice. The background music has also been also composed by Ray,” he said.

After the Singapore screening, a world premiere of the film is being planned for next year. “The film has generated a lot of interest internationally and we are planning to hold a world premiere here sometime in February-March next year. We will approach the state government to make the premiere a grand international event,” said Chopel.

“This is the only film made by the great master that has not been screened publicly and came to be known as ‘Ray’s lost film’. A retrospective of Ray’s films was held when he passed away after being conferred the lifetime achievement Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But Sikkim did not feature in the show,” he said.

Chopel said a print of the film had been found with the British Film Institute in London and through Dilip Basu, the founder-member of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Centre at the University of California, the Academy was approached for restoration.

“We approached the Central Board of Film Certification and obtained a ‘U’ registration on March 6, 2002, as such an approval was necessary for the restoration. It took eight long years for the Academy to restore the print to the original as the work was tedious and painstaking. The Academy had borne the cost of around $100,000 to restore the film,” said Chopel.

“The job was painstaking as the negatives were missing and a fresh negative had to be prepared frame by frame from the prints which were available with the trust and from the copy that was lying with a private collector in London,” said Chopel.

A package containing the restored prints reached the trust on September 11 from the Academy.

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