Screening of Ray's controversial 'Sikkim' banned by court

Screening of Ray's controversial 'Sikkim' banned by court

East and North Sikkim District Judge S W Lepcha ordered the stay on a petition by Atul Kaura, secretary of Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim, an NGO working for the preservation of ethnic Sikkimese art and culture.

"The film cannot be screened without our permission when the copyright is with us. Even the censor certificates are with us, where we have been credited as the producers of the film," Ugyen Chopel, managing trustee of the body, told PTI from Gangtok.

Claiming exclusive possession of a sole 35 mm print and two DVD versions of the film, he alleged that the film festival authorities were showing a pirated version of the documentary.

"If they are screening it without taking a copy from us, that means they have a pirated version, which is completely illegal," he said, adding that a gala premiere of the film was scheduled in Gangtok in March next year.

"We have cancelled all the screenings as of now. But we will challenge the decision in the court," KFF director Nilanjan Chatterjee said.Beginning from today, "Sikkim" was scheduled to be screened at different venues in Kolkata on all days of the eight-day festival.

In Kolkata, West Bengal Special Secretary in the Information and Cultural Affairs department Niloy Ghosh said that though one screening of the documentary had taken place during the day, no further shows would take place.

"Today's show was the last," Ghosh said, adding the state government had received information about the stay order by the Sikkim court.Asked for his comment, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee replied, "I know it. Better go to Nandan (the venue of the film festival) and put the question."

The 52-minute documentary, commissioned by the last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, has remained shrouded in controversy ever since it was made by the Oscar winning director in 1971.

The Chogyals first banned the film after a few scenes went against their liking. When the Himalayan kingdom merged with India in 1975, the Indian government also banned it.
In 2000, the copyright of the film was transferred to the Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim.
A damaged print of the film was restored by the Ganktok-based trust in 2002 with the support of The Academy of Motion Pictures, Art and Science in California.

Even in the 2008 edition of KFF, the authorities were forced to call off the screening of 'Sikkim' after failing to get a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Earlier in September, the Ministry of External Affairs had lifted the ban on the film, which the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) gave a 'U' certificate for 'unrestricted public viewing' in 2002.The film was screened in Delhi last month.

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