A 50 year old documentary named ‘Sikkim’, filmed during the last years of Sikkim as an independent monarchy, is pure gold for a Himalayan traveller.. . especially when it was shot by Satyajit Ray himself.
This documentary was commissioned in the early 1970’s when Sikkim was still an independent kingdom ruled by a monarch and also a protectorate of the Indian Republic. This was a few years before the anti- monarchy riots and the subsequent merger with India in 1975.
Made with the view of promoting tourism, King Palden Thondup Namgyal chose Satyajit Ray for the job of capturing Sikkim’s beauty on film.
Ray, portrays a stunning and wholesome picture of Sikkim showcasing its spectacular landscape, culture and the lives of people. The documentary starts with a bird’s eye view of Himalayan mountain ranges and moves through the villages and bazaars to the royal palace.
Evidently, Sikkim’s wealth disparity was also captured in a scene that didn’t go down well with the monarchy. Cuts were ordered and some scenes were asked to be reshot. Ray complied with the directive but by the time the final version was ready, the situation had changed. Sikkim had merged with India as its 22nd state.
Given the recent upheavals and fearing adverse reactions from the local population, the Government of India decided to ban the documentary.
Except for a private screening by the filmmaker, the film had not been seen in public for over 40 years, till the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) decided to lift the ban in September 2010.
The copyright to the film is now with the Arts and Culture trust of Sikkim and it is available for viewing at: LINK