Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sikkim (1971): A Documentary by Satyajit Ray

“What it lacks in size, is more than made up by its Himalayan Grandeur”

Satyajit Ray is perhaps the most acclaimed and celebrated Indian film-maker worldwide. I personally have not seen any of his works, for almost all of it is in Bengali (except the 1977 ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ in Hindi, which I am hoping to catch soon). This is a 1971 documentary made by him on Sikkim, presently the second smallest and the least populous state in India. However, at the time this was shot, Sikkim was a sovereign land with its own king and just a fiduciary support from India as regards to its diplomatic ties and foreign affairs. This documentary was commissioned by the ‘Chogyal’ (King of Sikkim) himself in an effort to introduce the diversity and culture of this quaint Himalayan land where rests the third highest peak in the world, Mount ‘Kangchenjunga’.

This documentary was banned from screening and its print was lost for long (Wikipedia). It’s only recently that it has been recovered and unbanned. Satyajit Ray shot this film as an ode to this serene land. He also handled the responsibility of writing and giving a very crisp and precise narration to the footage. The pace of the narrative is very languid and suggests that it was shot very tastefully and meticulously by the great man.  The film touches upon almost all aspects of Sikkim- from its history, the diversity of its people and culture, its economy, the Buddhist monasteries and their architecture, to even its rich flora and fauna. The show reel ends with a detailed look at the annual festival that is celebrated in Sikkim as a marking the beginning of the New Year.

Though the documentary was shot four decades ago, it is still a highly informative watch that is sure to widen our understanding of one of the most beautiful and quiet parts of our country.


  1. That's interesting - I hadn't known about this docu until I read your post about it.

    You really should watch Shatranj ke Khiladi - it's excellent. And a lot of Ray's Bengali films are easily available with English subtitles (my Bengali is too minimal for me to understand enough just by hearing dialogues, so I depend on subtitles too).

  2. Hey... I download Charulata- but no subtitles- I have got Shatraj ke Khiladi with me though so will watch it this week for sure-

    By the way I slept late last night for I was engrossed in your book (will complete it today)- Muzaffar Baig is on the job! And so am I- hoping to complete before I sleep today)

  3. Thank you! You really made my day by saying you were engrossed in my book! :-)

    By the way, you can download the subtitles for Charulata from here, I think:

    I haven't seen the film myself, but I've heard it praised a lot.