Parallel Cinema: Wikis


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Indian New Wave / Parallel Cinema
Years active 1946 - present (Parallel Cinema)
1952 - 1976 (New Wave)
Country India
Major figures Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram, Chetan Anand, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Jahnu Barua,Bhabendra Nath Saikia
Influences Indian theatre, Bengali literature, social realism, poetic realism, Italian neorealism

The Indian New Wave, commonly known in India as Art Cinema or Parallel Cinema as an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema, is a specific movement in Indian cinema, known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, with a keen eye on the social-political climate of the times. This movement is distinct from mainstream Bollywood cinema and began around the same time as the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave. The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema (which has produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, and others) and then gained prominence in the other film industries of India.





Realism in Indian cinema dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. One of the earliest examples was V. Shantaram's 1925 silent film classic Sawkari Pash (Indian Shylock), about a poor peasant (portrayed by Shantaram) who "loses his land to a greedy moneylender and is forced to migrate to the city to become a mill worker. Acclaimed as a realistic breakthrough, its shot of a howling dog near a hut, has become a milestone in the march of Indian cinema." The 1937 Shantaram film Duniya Na Mane (The Unexpected) also critiqued the treatment of women in Indian society.[1]

Early years

The Parallel Cinema movement began to take shape from the late 1940s to the 1960s, by pioneers such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Chetan Anand and V. Shantaram. This period is considered part of the 'Golden Age' of Indian cinema.[2][3][4] Film makers of this era have collectively created a body of work known of its technical brilliance as well as artistic simplicity and thematic grandeur.

This cinema borrowed heavily from the Indian literature of the times, hence became an important study of the contemporary Indian society, and is now used by scholars and historians alike to map the changing demographics the and socio-economic as well political temperament of the Indian populace. Right from its inception, Indian cinema has had people who wanted to and did use the medium for more than entertainment. They used it to highlight prevalent issues and sometimes to throw open new issues for the public. An early example was Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar (1946), a social realist film that won the Grand Prize at the first Cannes Film Festival.[5] Since then, Indian independent films were frequently in competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, with some of them winning major prizes at the festival.

During the 1950s and the 1960s, intellectual filmmakers and story writers became frustrated with musical films. To counter this, they created a genre of films which depicted reality from an artful perspective. Most films made during this period were funded by state governments to promote an authentic art genre from the Indian film fraternity. The most famous Indian "neo-realist" was the Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, followed by Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Kasaravalli. Ray's most famous films were Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959), which formed The Apu Trilogy. Produced on a shoestring budget of Rs. 1.5 lakh ($3000),[6][7] the three films won major prizes at the Cannes, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals, and are today frequently listed among the greatest films of all time.[8][9][10][11]

Certain art films have also garnered commercial success, in an industry known for its surrealism or 'fantastical' movies, and successfully combined features of both art and commercial cinema. An early example of this was Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (1953), which was both a commercial and critical success. The film won the International Prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival and paved the way for the Indian New Wave.[12][13][14] Hrishikesh Mukherjee, one of Hindi cinema's most successful filmmakers, was named the pioneer of 'middle cinema', and was renowned for making films that reflected the changing middle-class ethos. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Mukherjee "carved a middle path between the extravagance of mainstream cinema and the stark relism of art cinema".[15] Another filmmaker to integrate art and commercial cinema was Guru Dutt, whose film Pyaasa (1957) featured in Time magazine's "All-TIME" 100 best movies list.[16]

In the 1960s, the Indian government began financing independent art films based on Indian themes. Many of the directors were graduates of the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), in Pune. The Bengali film director Ritwik Ghatak was a professor at the institute and a well-known director. Unlike Ray, however, Ghatak did not gain international fame during his lifetime. For example, Ghatak's Nagarik (1952) was perhaps the earliest example of a Bengali art film, preceding Ray's Pather Panchali by three years, but was not released until after his death in 1977.[17][18] His first commercial release Ajantrik (1958) was also one of the earliest films to portray an inanimate object, in this case an automobile, as a character in the story, many years before the Herbie films.[19] The protagonist of Ajantrik, Bimal, can also be seen as an influence on the cynical cab driver Narasingh (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) in Satyajit Ray's Abhijan (1962), which in turn served as a prototype for the character of Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).[20]


Smita Patil as Usha, in Shyam Benegal's Bhumika (1977).

During the 1970s and the 1980s, parallel cinema entered into the limelight of Hindi cinema to a much wider extent. This was led by such directors as Gulzar, Shyam Benegal and Saeed Akhtar Mirza, and later on Mahesh Bhatt and Govind Nihalani, becoming the main directors of this period's Indian art cinema. Benegal's directorial debut, Ankur was a major critical success, and was followed by numerous works that created another field in the movement. These filmmakers tried to promote realism in their own different styles, though many of them often accepted certain conventions of popular cinema.[21] Parallel cinema of this time gave careers to a whole new breed of young actors, including Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Pankaj Kapoor, and even actors from commercial cinema like Rekha and Hema Malini ventured into art cinema.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan extended the Indian New Wave to Malayalam cinema with his film Swayamvaram in 1972. Long after the Golden Age of Indian cinema, Malayalam cinema experienced its own 'Golden Age' in the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the most acclaimed Indian filmmakers at the time were from the Malayalam industry, including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan, Padmarajan, T. V. Chandran and Shaji N. Karun.[22] Gopalakrishnan, who is often considered to be Satyajit Ray's spiritual heir,[23] directed some of his most acclaimed films during this period, including Elippathayam (1981) which won the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival, as well as Mathilukal (1989) which won major prizes at the Venice Film Festival.[24] Shaji N. Karun's debut film Piravi (1989) won the Camera d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, while his second film Swaham (1994) was in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.[25]

Girish Kasaravalli, Girish Karnad and B. V. Karanth led the way for parallel cinema in the Kannada film industry, while Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan have done the same for Tamil cinema.


By the early 1990s, the rising costs involved in film production and the commercialization of the films had a negative impact on the art films. The fact that investment returns cannot be guaranteed made art films less popular amongst filmmakers. Underworld financing, politcal and economic turmoil, television and piracy proved to be fatal threat to parallel cinema, as it declined.


The term "parallel cinema" has started being applied to off-beat films produced in Bollywood, where art films have begun experiencing a resurgence, largely due to the critical and commercial success of the Mumbai underworld film Satya (1998), directed by Ram Gopal Varma and written by Anurag Kashyap. The film's success led to the emergence of a distinct genre known as Mumbai noir,[26] urban films reflecting social problems in the city of Mumbai.[27]

Other modern examples of art films produced in Bollywood which are classified as part of the parallel cinema genre include Mani Ratnam's Dil Se (1998) and Yuva (2004), Nagesh Kukunoor's 3 Deewarein (2003) and Dor (2006), Sudhir Mishra's Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005), Jahnu Barua's Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (2005), Pan Nalin's Valley of Flowers (2006), Nandita Das' Firaaq (2008), Onir's My Brother… Nikhil (2005) and Bas Ek Pal (2006),Anurag Kashyap's Dev.D (2009) and Gulaal (2009) and Piyush Jha's Sikandar (2009) .

Independent films spoken in Indian English are also occasionally produced; examples include Revathi's Mitr, My Friend (2002), Aparna Sen's Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) and 15 Park Avenue (2006), Anant Balani's Joggers' Park (2003), Piyush Jha's King of Bollywood (2004), Homi Adajania's Being Cyrus (2006), Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear (2007) and Sooni Taraporevala's Little Zizou (2009).

Other Indian art film directors active today include Mrinal Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Gautam Ghose, Sandip Ray (Satyajit Ray's son) and Rituparno Ghosh in Bengali cinema; Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shaji N. Karun and T. V. Chandran in Malayalam cinema; Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal [28] and Deepa Mehta in Hindi cinema; and Mani Ratnam, Bala and Kamal Haasan in Tamil cinema.

Global discourse

Satyajit Ray, one of the most famous Indian independent filmmakers.

During the formative period of Indian parallel cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, the movement was influenced by Italian cinema and French cinema, particularly by Italian neorealism as well as French poetic realism. Satyajit Ray particularly cited Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948) and French filmmaker Jean Renoir's The River (1951), which he assisted, as influences on his debut film Pather Panchali (1955), alongside influences from Bengali literature and classical Indian theatre.[29] Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (1953) was also influenced by De Sica's Bicycle Thieves. The Indian New Wave also began around the same time as the French New Wave and the Japanese New Wave.

Ever since Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar won the Grand Prize at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946,[30] Indian parallel cinema films frequently appeared in international fora and film festivals for the next several decades.[31] This allowed Indian independent filmmakers to reach a global audience. The most influential among them was Satyajit Ray, whose films became successful among European, American and Asian audiences.[32] His work subsequently had a worldwide impact, with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese,[33] James Ivory,[34] Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, François Truffaut,[35] Carlos Saura,[36] Isao Takahata[37] and Wes Anderson[38] being influenced by his cinematic style, and many others such as Akira Kurosawa praising his work.[39] The "youthful coming-of-age dramas that have flooded art houses since the mid-fifties owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy" (1955–1959).[40] Ray's 1967 script for a film to be called The Alien, which was eventually cancelled, is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's E.T. (1982).[41][42][43] Ira Sachs' Forty Shades of Blue (2005) was a loose remake of Charulata, and in Gregory Nava's My Family (1995), the final scene is duplicated from the final scene of The World of Apu (1959). Similar references to Ray films are found in recent works such as Sacred Evil (2006),[44] the Elements trilogy of Deepa Mehta, and in films of Jean-Luc Godard.[45]

Another prominent filmmaker is Mrinal Sen, whose films have been well-known for their Marxist views. During his career, Mrinal Sen’s film have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo. Retrospectives of his films have been shown in almost all major cities of the world.[46]

Another Bengali independent filmmaker, Ritwik Ghatak, began reaching a global audience long after his death; beginning in the 1990s, a project to restore Ghatak's films was undertaken, and international exhibitions (and subsequent DVD releases) have belatedly generated an increasingly global audience. Alongside Ray's films, Ghatak's films have also appeared in several all-time greatest film polls. A number of Satyajit Ray films appeared in the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll, including The Apu Trilogy (ranked #4 in 1992 if votes are combined),[47] The Music Room (ranked #27 in 1992), Charulata (ranked #41 in 1992)[48] and Days and Nights in the Forest (ranked #81 in 1982).[49] The 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll also included the Guru Dutt films Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool (both tied at #160), and the Ritwik Ghatak films Meghe Dhaka Tara (ranked #231) and Komal Gandhar (ranked #346).[50] In 1998, the critics' poll conducted by the Asian film magazine Cinemaya included The Apu Trilogy (ranked #1 if votes are combined), Ray's Charulata and The Music Room (both tied at #11), and Ghatak's Subarnarekha (also tied at #11).[51] In 1999, The Village Voice top 250 "Best Film of the Century" critics' poll also included The Apu Trilogy (ranked #5 if votes are combined).[9] The Apu Trilogy, Pyaasa and Mani Ratnam's Nayagan were also included in Time magazine's "All-TIME" 100 best movies list in 2005.[16] In 1992, the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll ranked Ray at #7 in its list of "Top 10 Directors" of all time,[52] while Dutt was ranked #73 in the 2002 Sight & Sound greatest directors poll.[53]

The cinematographer Subrata Mitra, who made his debut with Ray's The Apu Trilogy, also had an importance influence on cinematography across the world. One of his most important techniques was bounce lighting, to recreate the effect of daylight on sets. He pioneered the technique while filming Aparajito (1956), the second part of The Apu Trilogy.[54] Some of the experimental techniques which Satyajit Ray pioneered include photo-negative flashbacks and X-ray digressions while filming Pratidwandi (1972).[55]


See also


  1. ^ Lalit Mohan Joshi (17 July 2007). "India's Art House Cinema". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  2. ^ K. Moti Gokulsing, K. Gokulsing, Wimal Dissanayake (2004), Indian Popular Cinema: A Narrative of Cultural Change, Trentham Books, p. 17, ISBN 1858563291 
  3. ^ Sharpe, Jenny (2005), "Gender, Nation, and Globalization in Monsoon Wedding and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge", Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 6 (1): 58–81 [60 & 75] 
  4. ^ Gooptu, Sharmistha (July 2002), "Reviewed work(s): The Cinemas of India (1896-2000) by Yves Thoraval", Economic and Political Weekly 37 (29): 3023–4 
  5. ^ Maker of innovative, meaningful movies. The Hindu, 15 June 2007
  6. ^ Robinson (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, p. 77, ISBN 1860649653 
  7. ^ Pradip Biswas (16 September 2005). "50 years of Pather Panchali". Screen Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  8. ^ "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  9. ^ a b "Take One: The First Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2006-07-27. 
  10. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made By THE FILM CRITICS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York Times, 2002.
  11. ^ "All-time 100 Movies". Time. Time Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  12. ^ Srikanth Srinivasan (4 August 2008). "Do Bigha Zamin: Seeds of the Indian New Wave". Dear Cinema. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  13. ^ Do Bigha Zamin at filmreference
  14. ^ Trends and genres
  15. ^ Gulzar; Nihalani, Govind; Chatterjee, Saibal (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Encyclopaedia Britannica (India) Pvt Ltd.. pp. 592. ISBN 8179910660. 
  16. ^ a b "All-Time 100 Best Movies". Time. Time, Inc.. 2005. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  17. ^ Ghatak, Ritwik (2000), Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema, Ritwik Memorial & Trust Seagull Books, pp. ix & 134–36, ISBN 8170461782 
  18. ^ Hood, John (2000), The Essential Mystery: The Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema, Orient Longman Limited, pp. 21–4, ISBN 8125018700 
  19. ^ Carrigy, Megan (October 2003), "Ritwik Ghatak", Senses of Cinema,, retrieved 2009-05-03 
  20. ^ Shubhajit Lahiri (June 5, 2009). "Satyajit Ray – Auteur Extraordinaire (Part 2)". Culturazzi. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  21. ^ Deepa Gahlot (17 October 2002). "What's with 'Bollywood'? Is the term derogatory to the world's biggest film producer?". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  22. ^ "Cinema History Malayalam Cinema". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  23. ^ "The Movie Interview: Adoor Gopalakrishnan". Rediff. 31 July 1997. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  24. ^ Adoor Gopalakrishnan at the Internet Movie Database
  25. ^ Shaji N. Karun at the Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ Aruti Nayar (2007-12-16). "Bollywood on the table". The Tribune. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  27. ^ Christian Jungen (4 April 2009). "Urban Movies: The Diversity of Indian Cinema". FIPRESCI. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  28. ^ K. Moti Gokulsing, K. Gokulsing, Wimal Dissanayake (2004), Indian Popular Cinema: A Narrative of Cultural Change, Trentham Books, p. 18, ISBN 1858563291 
  29. ^ Cooper, Darius (2000), The Cinema of Satyajit Ray: Between Tradition and Modernity, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–4, ISBN 0521629802 
  30. ^ "Awards for Neecha Nagar (1946)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  31. ^ Desai, Jigna (2004), Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film, p. 38, Routledge, ISBN 0415966841
  32. ^ Arthur J Pais (14 April 2009). "Why we admire Satyajit Ray so much". Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  33. ^ Chris Ingui. "Martin Scorsese hits DC, hangs with the Hachet". Hatchet. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  34. ^ Sheldon Hall. "Ivory, James (1928-)". Screen Online. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  35. ^ Dave Kehr (5 May 1995). "THE 'WORLD' OF SATYAJIT RAY: LEGACY OF INDIA'S PREMIER FILM MAKER ON DISPLAY". Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  36. ^ Suchetana Ray (11 March 2008). "Satyajit Ray is this Spanish director's inspiration". CNN-IBN. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  37. ^ Daniel Thomas (20 January 2003). "Film Reviews: Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka)". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  38. ^ "On Ray's Trail". The Statesman. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  39. ^ Robinson, A (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, p. 96, ISBN 1860649653 
  40. ^ Sragow, Michael (1994), "An Art Wedded to Truth", The Atlantic Monthly (University of California, Santa Cruz),, retrieved 2009-05-11 
  41. ^ Ray, Satyajit. "Ordeals of the Alien". The Unmade Ray. Satyajit Ray Society. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  42. ^ "Close encounters with native E.T. finally real". The Times of India. 5 April 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  43. ^ Newman J (2001-09-17). "Satyajit Ray Collection receives Packard grant and lecture endowment". UC Santa Cruz Currents online. Retrieved 2006-04-29. 
  44. ^ SK Jha. "Sacred Ray". Telegraph India. Retrieved 2006-06-29. 
  45. ^ André Habib. "Before and After: Origins and Death in the Work of Jean-Luc Godard". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2006-06-29. 
  46. ^ Mrinal Sen
  47. ^ Aaron and Mark Caldwell (2004). "Sight and Sound". Top 100 Movie Lists. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  48. ^ "SIGHT AND SOUND 1992 RANKING OF FILMS". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  49. ^ "SIGHT AND SOUND 1982 RANKING OF FILMS". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  50. ^ "2002 Sight & Sound Top Films Survey of 253 International Critics & Film Directors". Cinemacom. 2002. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  51. ^ Totaro, Donato (31 January 2003), "The “Sight & Sound” of Canons", Offscreen Journal (Canada Council for the Arts),, retrieved 2009-04-19 
  52. ^ "Sight and Sound Poll 1992: Critics". California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  53. ^ Kevin Lee (2002-09-05). "A Slanted Canon". Asian American Film Commentary. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  54. ^ "Subrata Mitra". Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  55. ^ Nick Pinkerton (April 14th 2009). "First Light: Satyajit Ray From the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 

External links


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