Parallel cinema is a film movement in Indian cinema that originated in the state of West Bengal in the 1950s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial Indian cinema, represented especially by popular Hindi cinema, known today as Bollywood.
The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema and produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha and others.
The term “parallel cinema” was coined by the critic P. K. Nair who made a case for a new avant-garde Indian film movement that would break away from the conventions of popular Hindi cinema (which Nair referred to as “commercial cinema”).
Parallel Cinema is characterized by its serious content, realism and naturalism, symbolic elements with a keen eye on the sociopolitical climate of the times, and its serious treatment of narrative, style, and structure.
Let’s take a look.
What Is Parallel cinema
What Is Parallel cinema?
Parallel cinema is a term coined by film directors to refer to the kind of movies they wanted to make, which were different from mainstream Bollywood films.
The main idea of parallel cinema is that instead of being formulaic and catering to the masses, these movies are “different.”
They don’t follow a certain set of guidelines, they aren’t written in a generic manner and they have different themes. These types of films also aren’t made with stars in mind.
Parallel Cinema’s origins lie in the “bhadralok cultural movement” of Bengal of the 1940s and 50s, particularly with the influential writings of Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay (who wrote Pather Panchali), Manik Bandyopadhyay and Saratchandra Chattopad.
What Is Parallel Cinema?
In Indian cinema, parallel cinema is a movement started in the 1950s. It began a new era of Indian films where social realism and humanism were the main themes.
Auteurs like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak were pioneers of this movement. The term “parallel cinema” was coined in 1978 by Saibal Mitra, then head of the Film Finance Corporation.
What is more important is to know that its meaning has changed over time. In fact in India Parallel Cinema signifies different things to different people.
To some it means films made cheaply on real-life subjects with non-professional actors, to others it refers to serious films made with well-established filmmakers and actors.
The directors associated with this movement have emphasized social realism, with their films characteristically employing minimalistic sets, little or no musical score, and often shooting on location.
Parallel Cinema was initially identified with the “Indian New Wave”, taking its name from the French New Wave.
The movement inspired independent filmmakers across India who created films with similar sensibilities. The most famous Indian art films include:
- Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955),
- Mrinal Sen’s Neel Akasher Neechey (1959), and
- Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960).
Pioneers Of Parallel Cinema
Parallel cinema is not just a metaphor for a new kind of cinema. It is a film movement that created a new language and grammar of films, a new kind of film audience and a new sensibility in the country.
The term parallel cinema was coined by the French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard who used it as an alternative to mainstream cinema.
It focused on realism, social issues, neo-realism and naturalism.
The movement began in the early 1940s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial Indian Cinema, represented especially by popular Hindi cinema, known today as ‘Bollywood’
It was the time when Satyajit Ray made Pather Panchali (1955), Ritwik Ghatak made Ajantrik (1958) and Bimal Roy made Do Bigha Zamin (1953).
Film historian Amrit Gangar said, “When Pather Panchali was released in 1955, it met with instant critical acclaim, even though there was hardly any promotion for the film. The entire film fraternity of India was taken aback by this new wave of cinema that had come out from Bengal.”
You will see a list of names on this page that you may have never heard or read before. However, these names are some of the most important names in world cinema and they are the pioneers of Parallel Cinema.
While some may be well known, others are not easily known to foreign audiences, but they all played an equal role in changing the face of Indian cinema.These filmmakers were the first ones to break away from mainstream Bollywood cinema.
They started making films that were relevant to the time and that was also a reflection of their inner feelings and reality.They told stories about the common man and their experiences in a way that had not been told before on celluloid.
This new wave of cinema was born in the 1960s, at a time when Indian society was going through a lot of changes. The country was trying to free itself from British rule and it was also going through major social upheavals as well as political turbulence.
The Naxalite movement was gaining momentum, which led to many violent conflicts between police forces and civilians, who had taken up arms against what they perceived as oppressive forces.
These filmmakers were the first ones to portray India’s problems through cinematic art – violence, corruption and inequality were among those issues.
Why Is Parallel Cinema Important?
Parallel Cinema is a term used to describe a trend in Indian cinema where small-budget films that are not mainstream in nature from the 1950s till the late 1970s were referred as parallel cinema.It was also a movement in 1950s and 1960s and soon became a genre of its own.
The parallel cinema was largely based on realism, social relevance and political themes. It attempted to break free from the clutches of mainstream Cinema, which was considered to be escapist entertainment by the critics of the time.
This form of cinema was quite different from the commercial cinema, which was quite popular amongst the masses. Parallel cinema had themes that were realistic in nature and depicted social issues and problems faced by common people.
These movies were often made on a low budget with unknown cast and crew members’ because of which they often remained ignored by audiences and filmmakers alike.These movies are considered to be ahead of their times when compared to regular mainstream movies which were mostly based on entertaining audiences with song, dance routines and melodrama.
Parallel cinema focused more on portraying reality, highlighting major problems faced by communities, families and individuals and often tried to come up with solutions through their stories as well as message at end of movies.
What Sets Parallel Cinema Different From Mainstream Cinema?
There are a number of ways in which parallel cinema is different from mainstream cinema.As a matter of fact, the two types of movies have been considered as antithesis to each other since the time they came into existence.
Parallel cinema was introduced as an alternative and protest against commercial Bollywood cinema.
Here are some major differences that exist between parallel and commercial cinema:
Context – Parallel cinema is made with a purpose to express the director’s frustration with society and to make people think about issues that are plaguing them.
This type of movie tries to make a direct connection with the audience by telling its stories through characters who are common people.
Genre – The genre of parallel or art films is realistic drama, which is mostly based on social issues. The form of narrative adopted here is non-linear story telling, revolving around the protagonist’s life and how it is affected by events taking place around him/her.
Presentation – It is generally believed that there are two kinds of commercial Hindi movies: masala entertainers and social dramas. In case of parallel cinema, it varies from film makers to film makers in terms of presentation, theme and style but most importantly, it should be experimental.
History Of Parallel Cinema
The term “parallel cinema” or “alternative cinema” is used in India to denote a particular movement in contemporary Indian cinema, beginning in the mid-1960s. The term is also used to refer to the cinema of West Bengal , which has had a major impact on parallel cinema across India.
It refers to a movement that is more personal, socially conscious and experimental than mainstream commercial cinema. It is often characterised by realism , naturalism and a strong focus on political or social issues .
Parallel Cinema began in the sixties as an alternative to mainstream commercial Indian cinema, which typically focused on formulaic stories, glamorous stars and lavish productions. Mainstream films often drew their plots from mythology or ancient history, or were adaptations of novels or stage plays; they were shot in lavish sets with big stars playing famous heroes.
Parallel films often featured new writers reading new scripts; they were shot quickly with little fuss or pretensions.
Essential Filmmakers Of Parallel Cinema
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986)Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s films are built on his own personal mythology. He creates a visual world that exists beyond our human condition, but completely represents it with its symbolic meaning; the physical and metaphysical worlds are inseparable.
Stalker , made in 1979, is perhaps the most famous of his films, and perhaps the film which best sums up all of his ideas. It’s also an ideal entry-point into his vision because it’s a relatively simple story, set in an ambiguous space-time, and has very little dialogue.
The film follows a guide through a strange wilderness of decay and shifting geometries towards a mysterious place known as the Room, where one’s innermost desires may be granted.
Tarkovsky’s films are so beautiful to watch because they exist on different levels; there is always something going on visually which goes way beyond what is being said or shown to us. His films take time to feel comfortable with them, but once you do then they can become life changing.
A new documentary series is due to screen on SBS called Cinema Australia: Essential Filmmakers. In this series, we will explore the work and influence of five of Australia’s most significant filmmakers: Peter Weir, Fred Schepisi, Phillip Noyce, Bruce Beresford and Gillian Armstrong.
Essential Films Of Parallel Cinema
Watching these films is like getting a glimpse of the mind of a country. Parallel cinema was at the forefront of documentary-like depictions of Indian life and politics in the 1960s and ’70s, when the country was experiencing rapid economic growth and cultural change.
Tollywood (Telugu language films) was born in this era, thanks partly to the work of Devdas. The story of love and loss took audiences by storm, and it remains a classic to this day.
Apu Trivedi is also one of the most celebrated filmmakers from this era. His film Borbaad (1962) is considered one of the best Hindi language films ever made.
It’s a story about an upper-class widow who keeps her lower-class lover hidden in her house, even though her family objects. The film was banned in India for three years because censors felt that it promoted adultery.
Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1963), directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, is an early example of an Indian film that tackles controversial issues such as capital punishment and basic human rights. It also set a new standard for box office hits with its innovative storytelling techniques, including nonlinear plotlines and flashbacks.
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989)
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) is a Bollywood Musical, Romance film produced under the banner of Rajshri Productions. The Film has an amazing star cast of Nana Patekar, Shabana Azmi, Govinda.
The movie is directed by Priyadarshan, and it was released on 08 Mar 1989 with a runtime of 152 min.T-Series brings to you ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989)’ starring Nana Patekar, Shabana Azmi, Govinda and directed by Priyadarshan.
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) is available to watch online in full HD on T-Series for FREE! Enjoy this full movie right now!’Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989)’ is a musical love story. Raja Singh Thakur lives in a village called Chanderi which is ruled by the king Vikram Singh Thakur.
He takes care of all his subjects and also provides education through schools in villages like Chanderi.Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar were the lyricists of this flick who gave some memorable songs.
Salim Khan was the music director too who gave voice to such beautiful tracks like ‘Waris.Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989),Movie: Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989),Star Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Pancholi, Madhuri Dixit,Directed by: Rajkumar Santoshi,Music Director: Laxmikant Pyarelal,Produced by: Gulshan Kumar.
In the world of music, particularly in the world of heavy metal, there are very few bands that live on in the collective memory without a famous album to their name. A band like Iron Maiden have an entire career based on their first two albums alone; they don’t need The X Factor or some other mainstream telly programme to remind people how great they are.
However, I’m going to make a bold statement: Iron Maiden were not even the best band from their home city of Birmingham during the 80s.That honor (or dishonor, depending on how you look at it) goes to Slough Feg.
This is not a revisionist argument either; in 1987 Kerrang! Magazine voted them Best New Band, ahead of everyone from King Diamond to Napalm Death and all points in between.They were also given a five star review by the same publication, and this was during a time when five-star reviews were handed out like free drinks at an Ozzy Osbourne show.
You see, despite being melodic doom metal pioneers with an unparalleled sense of melody and harmony, they never really enjoyed mainstream success.Their debut album Om-Dar-Ba-Dar sold extremely well for an underground metal release but never got any coverage outside the genre press.
Mirch Masala (1987)
I’ve got a confession – I love food. Well, that’s not really a confession as much as it is an insight into my character. I love cooking, eating, talking about and learning about food.
I have friends who think I’m crazy for being so obsessed with it but I don’t care. It’s just one of those things that makes me truly happy. I love to eat!
So when it comes to food reviews, I’m surprised at how many times the reviewer does a poor job of conveying their feelings about the dish in question. The words “delicious,” “awesome,” and “this is the best meal I’ve ever had in my life” are thrown around like they’re part of everyday conversation while writing restaurant reviews.
And they probably are part of everyday conversation for most people, but if you want your readers to trust your judgment then you can’t use words like those liberally in your food reviews. There’s nothing wrong with saying a dish was amazing or fantastic but overusing such descriptive words can make your writing seem less credible and believable.
So how do you get around this? Don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to describe how delicious a meal was without resorting to using the same worn out adjectives.
A young woman and her brother are invited to a party by some friends who live in the “other side” of the tracks from them. The young woman is enamored with the lifestyle she sees there, and their neighbors are equally attracted to her.
The brother, however, is not so easily swayed by this new way of life and tries to convince his sister that it’s wrong for her. He briefly succeeds when he finds out that one of the party-goers is a married man who has brought his wife along for no other reason than to show off.
However, when he goes outside for fresh air, he finds that the rest of the party-goers have turned into zombies (and they don’t take kindly to people who don’t partake in their ways). He flees back into the house where he fights off some of the zombies and rescues his sister.
They flee, but are pursued by the zombies in hot pursuit. Eventually they find a bus full of other survivors but upon boarding they are met with an unpleasant surprise: one of them is a zombie.
Name:First Known Use: 1686. Party (1984) is a Bollywood film directed by Subhash Ghai. This movie stars Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor and Amrita Singh in lead roles.
The film is a love triangle between the three main characters. It was one of the highest grossing films of 1984.
Ardh Satya (1983)
Movie: Ardh Satya (1983) Director: Mrinal Sen Prod: Shyam Benegal Music : Salil Chowdhury Lyrics: Gulzar Starring : Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Paresh Rawal, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Vinod Mehra, Shreeram Lagoo and othersArdha Satya is a 1983 Hindi film directed by Mrinal Sen. The film won the Golden Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival.
It is a story of a young man, played by Naseeruddin Shah who joins the police force only to be disillusioned by his idealism. It also portrays the degradation of the lower ranks’ lives in the police force and the increasing corruption in Indian politics.
Mrinal Sen took over two years to make this movie. He shot it in Jamshedpur, Bihar and Delhi. It was made on a shoestring budget of Rs 87 lakhs which included Rs 50 lakhs from NFDC.
The film was mainly shot in black and white with a very small portion shot in colour.The film won several awards at different film festivals including Golden Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival.
Bazaar is a 1982 album by the English new wave band XTC. It was released in September 1982 and reached No.
24 on the UK Albums Chart, with one of its singles, “Senses Working Overtime”, reaching No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 4 in Australia.
Bazaar is an album from 1982 from XTC. This reissue includes the vinyl-only bonus track “Sheriff of Hong Kong”.
XTC used to be a band that would slip under my radar despite all their songs that I liked being incredibly popular. I’ve only been able to get into them recently, but for some reason I couldn’t get into this album when it first came out.
Then again, I also didn’t get into The Police until much later than most people did, so who knows?I don’t know what it is about this album that doesn’t appeal to me.
Maybe it’s just that the production seems a little strange to me now? It’s not necessarily bad production, but it doesn’t really have the punch that I’m used to hearing from albums made in the 80s.
I tend to listen to these albums with headphones, but even when I do this one always seems a little weak compared to others.
Importance Of Parallel Cinema
Many film fans think of “art” movies as those foreign-made films that are so obscure and difficult to find that they only play in museums, art galleries and graduate schools. We tend to think of them as those films that have no stars, no action, no humor or sex and are considered too weird even for cable TV.
The situation is not much different from what it was when I started making my own independent film in India back in the 1970s. The definition of “art cinema” was basically limited to foreign-made films that had no commercial value, were without songs and dance routines, and did not lend themselves to mass consumption.
But times have changed dramatically. These days, American audiences are no longer averse to subtitles; they have been shown the benefits of seeing good foreign films with a variety of themes, stories and characters, as well as memorable performances by actors who live outside the Hollywood mainstream.
Nowadays, parallel cinema has become an important segment of the Indian film industry. The term was coined by Satyajit Ray to describe his own work and that of his contemporaries in the 1960s and ’70s — directors such as Mrinal Sen (Bhuvan Shome), Shyam Benegal (Ankur).
Parallel Cinema Theory
Parallel Cinema, also known as the New Film Movement, was an Indian cinematic movement from the 1950s to 1970s. It was an attempt at establishing a new form of cinematic expression that could be more relevant to the times and closer connected to the daily lives of ordinary Indians.
No one knows for sure when Parallel Cinema started. Some people believe it began with “Neecha Nagar” (1946) by Fali Mistry and some others believe it started with P.C. Barua’s “Aandhiyan” (1952).
Yet another set of people believe it started only in 1957 with Raj Kapoor’s “Kashmir Ki Kali”.It is a fact though that Parallel Cinema emerged as a reaction to the popular mainstream cinema of Bombay (now Mumbai).
The reasons for this can be found in the socio-political situation that prevailed in India after independence.In Bombay cinema, there was no place for people like us who were struggling to make films on contemporary themes which were close to our hearts and minds.
We were outsiders in an alien world. That we were outside the system gave us room to innovate and experiment without too much interference from those within the system who were comfortable with what they had been doing all along.
The Rise And Fall Of Parallel Cinema
Parallel Cinema was a Hindi film movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which attempted to provide an alternative to mainstream Indian cinema. It used the basic infrastructure of the Hindi film industry (the studios, the music composers and lyricists, etc.), but produced films that were more realistic in content, more political in tone and more nationalistic in theme.
Its films often dealt with the harsh realities of Indian life, including poverty, corruption and prostitution. Many of them applied a socialist critique to what they depicted.
A common theme was that of an honest man trapped by circumstances or society and forced to compromise his ideals or face dire consequences.Rise: Parallel Cinema began in 1962 with director Yash Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957).
The film was a major success at the box-office as well as critically acclaimed. It also marked the debut of actor Amitabh Bachchan.
The first phase lasted till 1965. These films did not have any song-and-dance routines or glamorous stars (although there were stars in these films).
Most of these films were directed by Bengali filmmakers who had migrated to Bombay after independence from British rule and had chosen to work there: Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha.
The End Of Parallel Cinema
It is a strange thing to watch a dying man. In this case, the man was an institution — the Film Institute of India, or FII, which was shut down by the government on July 31.
It is almost like watching a relative fade away — not because of any great attachment that I have had to it, but because it is an integral part of the cultural fabric of India.The Indian art cinema movement — which I prefer to call Parallel Cinema — was born in Delhi in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
This period was marked by the long rule of Jawaharlal Nehru as prime minister and also by his daughter Indira Gandhi’s ascendance to power from 1966 onwards. Parallel cinema reached its peak between 1975 and 1989 under both these leaders (with a short intermission during Morarji Desai’s prime ministership).
Parallel cinema was essentially a product of political patronage. The events that led up to its birth are now shrouded in history.
Suffice it to say that Nehru encouraged filmmakers to make films about contemporary life in India and he also gave them some financial support for their activities at a time when the government funding for films was minimal. The bulk of government funding went into making films that celebrated independence.
Parallel Cinema – Wrapping Up
We are now getting to the end of this series on Parallel Cinema, and I hope you have found it useful to your understanding of Indian cinema. We have covered a huge amount of ground, so next time we’ll take a look at some specific films that exemplify these trends.
But before that, I want to cover one outstanding individual from this era – Mrinal Sen. Till now we have been looking at trends and movements towards realism in cinema.
However, there were always some filmmakers who wanted to experiment with the medium and go beyond the accepted norms of realism. It was in the early sixties that we had truly began our journey towards Parallel Cinema.
Mrinal Sen’s films represent the highest form of Indian realism. He is respected for his deeply realistic films which explore the lives of ordinary people and offer a critical view on contemporary social issues.
In fact, his film Apur Sansar (1959) was banned by censors as they felt that it was “too depressing” for general audiences. This was only one of many films by Mrinal Sen which faced censorship problems with the censor board.
He has also made several documentaries which are known for their use of innovative formal strategies and their sensitive portrayal of marginalized communities around India.
Ready to learn about some other Film Movements or Film History?