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Saturday, November 13, 2010

San Suu Kyi, released from prison

‘Shooting with Satyajit Ray was a lifetime experience’
IANS, Kolkata, Nov 12 : The shooting of the documentary "Sikkim" with legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray was a lifetime experience, feels cinematographer Soumendu Roy.
"Shooting ‘Sikkim’ with Satyjit Ray was a lifetime experience. I had earlier worked with Ray but for ‘Sikkim’ we had to work with very minimal equipment and human resources," Roy told IANS. 
"During the shooting, we always had to stay alert. The experience helped me later while shooting other films," Roy said after the first public screening of the documentary at the 16th Kolkata Film Festival here Thursday. 
The documentary is about the natural beauty of Sikkim and the innocence and simplicity of its people. It is about the way of living of its people. 
The opening sequence evokes the beauty of the land, beginning with a shot of a parallel ropeway with two carriages advancing towards each other. Ray himself has done the commentary in the film, which also tells the viewers a brief history of Sikkim. 
The 77-year-old veteran cinematographer walked down the memory lane when asked about the most memorable experience during the shooting of "Sikkim". 
"I still remember a scene when we had to shoot in an area which was full of bushes and jungles. The locals told us that the place was full of leeches. We were so engulfed in the shooting that we didn’t take any protective measures," Roy said. 
"But after we came back from the shooting, we found that leeches were sticking to most of our body parts. We lost a lot of blood for shooting this film," he giggled. 
Made by Satyajit Ray in 1971, the documentary was banned by the external affairs ministry in 1975 when Sikkim merged with India. 
It was commissioned by the last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, and his America-born queen Hope Cooke. It was soon banned by the Indian government and remained in the cans after that. 
The hour-long screening of the movie at Nandan auditorium gave a clear picture of the socio-economic and socio-religious culture of Sikkim in the early 1970s. 
The documentary also has a sequence of a gala feast and cultural programme at King’s Palace, which was attended by the king and other dignitaries. The general public was also seen attending the feast. 
But within minutes of the first public screening of "Sikkim", its remaining shows during the event were suspended following a direction by a Sikkim court. 
An order of the district judge court of Gangtok has forced the festival authorities here to suspend the scheduled screening of the documentary.
Ray had refused changes in Sikkim
IBNS correspondent Shoma A. Chatterji is one of the lucky few to have watched Sikkim at the 16th KFF, hours after a legal  it was taken off the schedule 
Delegates and media persons were lucky to catch the first screening ever of Satyajit Ray’s hour-long documentary Sikkim (1971) in India 40 years after it was made. Thanks to an interim order sent by a cultural organization of Sikkim to COO Neelanjan Chatterjee, Kolkata Film Festival and to the powers-that-be , subsequent screenings of the film at the 16th KFF have been lifted temporarily.
Sikkim was jointly commissioned  by the then-Chogyal of Sikkim and his American wife Hope Cooke. It was more due to the enthusiasm of the latter to promote Sikkim as an attractive tourist spot to the world that Ray was asked to make the film. Ray agreed.
It It is a pictorially beautiful film that not only scans the picturesque mountainscape of the land, its diverse orchids that carry its maker’s inimitable signature, but also his command over holding a picture of its people, culture, poverty, music and dance.
The filmmaker’s son Sandip Ray says that the original ‘rush’ print of the film was screened to a very small audience at Kolkata’s Indrapuri Studio’s projection room.
This ‘rush’ print  footage ran for nearly 40,000 feet covering five hours of screening time. The film was processed at Mumbai’s Film Center. The commentary was written by Ray himself and the voice-over is also Ray’s.
Problems cropped up at Sikkim because the royal couple, the Chogyal and his wife was not happy with the final film when they saw it. The objections, wrote Dilip Mukhopadhyay, were probably due to some scenes the king and his wife found unpalatable and unflattering to the royal family and the image of Sikkim.
There is a scene of an open-air party thrown by the royal couple in the royal gardens where a grand royal table is laid out for the invitees comprised of aristocratic families of Sikkim and foreign guests.
Ray is said to have juxtaposed these scenes with scenes of the poor and the starving hunting crazily for the leftovers in the darkness outside the palace in the biting cold. Without articulating in words, Ray pointed out the contrast in the beautiful land ruled by a  king who either did not care about the poverty his subjects reeled under or did not know. Chogyal asked for several cuts in the film and also some snipping of Ray’s commentary.
Ray was firm. He staunchly refused to make any changes to the original footage. By virtue of ownership rights, the film went back to Sikkim and according to reports, just 60% of the Ray’s original print remains.
The story did not end there. Four years later, the Government of India banned the screening of the film. Why? No reasons were forwarded. Which version – the one Ray originally made or the one edited by the Sikkim royalty? No one knows till this date.
Towards the end of the royal regime in Sikkim, reports were rife that all prints of the film were destroyed. Then how did we watch the film? Two to three prints are said to have survived in India.But as cinematographer Soumendu Roy said in his pre-screening speech at Nandan, this print has been reproduced from another print and is therefore, a reproduction. Which version did we get to watch? The screening time was one hour so probably it was the censored version!
Ray is in good company because his peers in International cinema such as Eisenstein and Bunuel’s films have suffered similar fate. But it is unique in the history of world cinema to find that the filmmaker vested with the highest international and national honours for his contribution to cinema, is also a victim of random censorship both by the persons who commissioned him to make the film and also by the government of the country he was born and died in. Will cine buffs ever get to watch Sikkim again?
(Shoma A Chatterji is a national award winning film writer)
Tourists robbed in Mirik
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 13: Three tourists from Delhi were robbed at two Mirik hotels with one of them slashed with a dagger when she tried to resist.
The victims were part of a group of 22 from Delhi who were staying the night at Mirik, 45km from Darjeeling, before catching a flight to Delhi from Bagdogra today.
Bijoy Gupta, one of the tourists who was robbed, said: “My wife and I were sleeping in our hotel room when we were woken up around 2am by the sound of someone rummaging through our luggage.”
Gupta said the thief rushed into the bathroom after his wife Madhu raised the alarm.
“My wife tried to catch him. But the thief slashed her hand with a dagger and escaped through the open window of the toilet. The window did not have any grills or rods,” Gupta, a central government employee, said.
He said he suspected the thief had entered through the toilet window. “He took away Rs 2,000 in cash, a cellphone and some jewellery.”
The couple called up the hotel staff and the others in their group. Gupta and his wife came to know that one of their fellow tourists had also been robbed minutes before the theft in their room. A thief had entered the other tourist’s room in a different hotel through an open window and escaped with Rs 1,000 in cash, two cellphones and a camera.
Police said they were probing if both the thefts had been committed by the same person. This morning, Gupta and the others went to Siliguri where Madhu was treated by a doctor. The group then left for Bagdogra to catch the 1pm flight to Delhi.
Darjeeling superintendent of police D.P. Singh said: “We will speak to local residents and the staff of the hotels.”
Tour operators said thefts were rare in Mirik. “It is cause for concern when the safety of tourists is in question,” said Samrat Sanyal, president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association.

M P Ghimire first to be conferred doctorate degree in physical science by MU
Gorkha Times, Aizawl (GT): Madhav Prasad Ghimire, born to Somnath Ghimire and Basundhara Ghimire was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics on 12th Nov. 2010 by Mizoram University. He has made all  Gorkhas proud as he has become the first scholar to be conferred a doctorate degree by Mizoram University in Physical Science. The title of his Thesis was “A Theoretical Study of Photofield Emission And Band Structure Calculations” which was under the guidance of his supervisor Dr R. K. Thapa, a professor in the  Department of Physics at the Mizoram University, Aizawl.
Dr. Ghimire, born and brought up in Mizoram, completed his schooling from Govt Higher Secondary School, Lunglei, higher secondary education from Baptist Higher Secondary School, Lunglei, completed his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Pachhunga University college Aizawl and later his Master’s Degree in Physics from Banaras Hindu University(BHU), Varanasi.
Dr Ghimire started his research work in Condensed Matter Theory Research Group under the supervision of Dr R.K.Thapa  from the year 2005. Later he enrolled himself  for a Phd degree at the Mizoram University under Prof. R. K. Thapa in 16th August, 2007.
Dr. Ghimire's Thesis paper entitled "A theoretical study of Photofield emission and band structure calculations " has been  selected for presentation in the upcoming symposium on Department of Atomic Energy (Solid State Physics Symposium) 2010 DAE(SSPS) 2010 which is going to be held from 26th -31Dec 2010 at Manipal, Karnataka, India. The selection of a thesis paper in this  symposium implies  reward and honor to the candidate for his hard work. The selection of his paper in this conference means that his thesis and his Doctorate degree is approved nationally as well as internationally.
Sui Kyi released
YANGON, 13 NOV: Myanmar's military government freed its archrival, democracy leader Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, today after her latest term of detention expired.
A smiling Suu Kyi, wearing a traditional jacket and a flower in her hair, appeared at the gate of her compound as several thousand jubilant supporters chanted, cheered and sang the national anthem. Speaking briefly in Burmese, she thanked the well-wishers, who quickly swelled to as many as 5,000, and said they would see each other again tomorrow at the headquarters of her political party.
The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose latest period of detention spanned seven and a half years, has come to symbolise the struggle for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation ruled by the military since 1962.
The release from house arrest of one of the world's most prominent political prisoners came a week after an election that was swept by the military's proxy political party and decried by Western nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.
Supporters had been waiting most of the day near her residence and the headquarters of her political party. Ms Suu Kyi has been jailed or under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years.
As Ms Suu Kyi was formally released, riot police stationed in the area left the scene and a barbed-wire barricade near her residence was removed, allowing the waiting supporters to surge forward. 
Her release was immediately welcomed by several activist groups around the world, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was long overdue. “Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom of speech, democracy and human rights,” he said in a statement.
Critics allege the 7 November elections were manipulated to give the pro-military party a sweeping victory. Results have been released piecemeal and already have given the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party a majority in both houses of Parliament. The last elections in 1990 were won overwhelmingly by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, but the military refused to hand over power and instead clamped down on opponents.
Ms Suu Kyi was convicted last year of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home, extending a period of continuous detention that began in 2003 after her motorcade was ambushed in northern Myanmar by a government- backed mob.
Ms Suu Kyi ~ who was barred from running in this month's elections ~ plans to help probe allegations of voting fraud, according to Mr Nyan Win, who is a spokesman for her party, which was officially disbanded for refusing to reregister for this year's polls. Such action, which could embarrass the junta, poses the sort of challenge the military has reacted to in the past by detaining Ms Suu Kyi.
Awaiting her release in neighbouring Thailand was the younger of her two sons, Mr Kim Aris, who is seeking the chance to see his mother for the first time in 10 years. 

When Congress headquarters was Suu Kyi's home
When Congress headquarters was Suu Kyi's home
IANS, New Delhi: Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released from prison Saturday, once lived at the bungalow here that is the Congress headquarters, occupying a room now held by Rahul Gandhi. She was barely 15 when she became an occupant of 24 Akbar Road in the heart of the capital after it was allotted to her mother Daw Khin Kyi, who was Myanmar's ambassador to India.
According to writer-journalist Rasheed Kidwai's new book "24, Akbar Road" (Hachette India), this was the bungalow's first brush with history. The year was 1961. Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru named the bungalow, built between 1911 and 1925, "Burma House" in recognition of Daw Khin Kyi's status.
Says Kidwai in his soon to be released book: "Suu (Kyi) was a young girl with thick, long plaits of hair when she chose for her own the room that is currently occupied by Rahul Gandhi in his capacity as general secretary of the Congress."
"Suu picked the room because it had a huge piano. Every evening, a teacher would come to give her piano lessons. She quickly developed a penchant for the nuanced subtleties of Western classical music. Years later, while under house arrest in a dilapidated lakeside habitation on University Avenue in Rangoon, Suu's fondness for the piano provided her much relief and she often played for long hours to relieve the depression of her confinement."
According to the book, Suu Kyi loved 24 Akbar Road, which she found imposing on the outside and cool inside with its large, elegant rooms. It was in that house, says Kidwai that Suu Kyi learnt to make Japanese flower arrangements. She also played with Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in the extensive garden.
"Sanjay and Rajiv were her contemporaries, one born a year before her and the other a year later. She was often seen in their company at Rashtrapati Bhawan, where they took riding lessons from the presidential bodyguards." The young girl began schooling at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, a Catholic establishment close to the Cathedral of St Joseph here.
"Suu completed her secondary education and then enrolled at Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) to study political science."In 1962, the now famous Delhi college was still in its infancy - just six years old. It was located in Daryaganj at the time and boasted of three hundred students.
"Suu was grounded in the complexities of political thought via classroom teaching. She learnt to recognize the vital living qualities of modern democracy. Her time in India contributed greatly to crafting Suu Kyi into the politicized entity she is today."
According to the book, the first time Indira Gandhi entered 24 Akbar Road was in January 1978, almost a year after she was defeated in the post-Emergency Lok Sabha election. By then it had ceased to be the "Burma House". A Type VII bungalow in Lutyens' New Delhi, the house belonged to G Venkatswamy, a Rajya Sabha Congress member from Andhra Pradesh who sided with Indira Gandhi after the Congress split post-Emergency.
Once family loyalist Mohammad Yunus offered his residence, 12 Wellingdon Crescent, for Indira Gandhi and her family as their private residence, the former prime minister realised she needed a place for party work.
"So, 24 Akbar Road was like a boon granted, though it might not have seemed so straight off, considering the state of shambles in which it was at the time. Facing the Indian Air Force chief's residence and the Intelligence Bureau's political surveillance unit (which still exists), it had five near empty rooms, a living and dining room, and a guest room."
"The outhouses were a picture of neglect and the garden, a mess, with unruly hedges and weeds everywhere. It had a wicket gate link to 10 Janpath, which was then the office of the Indian Youth Congress and is now the home of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Decades later, 10 Janpath and 24 Akbar Road established a formidable link, bringing fame, fortune and effective leadership to the Congress."

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