Indian Parallel Cinema:
“Cinema’s characteristic forte is its ability to capture and communicate the intimacies of the human mind.” ~ Satyajit Ray
Cinema is a very powerful weapon that works both ways. While cinema influences people, people influence it right back. That is why, parallel cinema plays a very crucial role- mirroring our society, as well as affecting it. The films of Sen, Benegal, and Ray offered their audiences a political message about the social conditions they represented.
Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Mani Kaul, do these titanic names draw a blank in the minds of the average viewer? The answer, we are afraid, is a vehement ‘Yes.’ The parallel, or art cinema, that came riding on the wave of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen all the way from Bengal to Bollywood in the 1970s-80s, is nobody’s favorite genre.
One of the major features of the films classified under Parallel Cinema is their fixation on social critique, so much so that some filmmakers have called it “complaint box cinema”. Many of these films are first and foremost screeds against feudalism, corruption, nepotism, patriarchy, and religious intolerance. More radical, politically engaged ones deal with modernization and class warfare and regularly lean towards the left of the center.
Parallel films are characterized by their rejection of popular forms, especially the song and fight sequences, their affinity for rural settings or working class, their use of method actors, a penchant for close-ups and lengthy shots, spare use of musical score, toned down color palettes, their frequently formalist approach to composition and, sometimes, even experimental editing patterns. Through the years, these films have almost always been funded by state-owned institutions.
The rise and fall of parallel cinema
The 1970s and 1980s saw the peak of parallel cinema in India. Parallel cinema gave careers to a whole new breed of young actors at the time including Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Pankaj Kapoor, Deepti Naval, Farooq Shaikh, and even actors from commercial cinema like Hema Malini, Raakhee, and Rekha who ventured into art cinema. However, due to the commercialization of films in the early 1990s, parallel cinema saw a fall. Parallel cinema films are primarily made using funds and the rising costs involved in film production made it difficult to make parallel films. However, it can be seen that there is a resurgence in parallel cinema once again.
Parallel cinema made a way for new filmmakers & actors who dedicated their profession to the art of filmmaking rather than focusing on the box office success.
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