Parallel Cinema is a term that refers to the film movement in India during the years 1940 to 1960 wherein new age of film makers emerged and they started to make movies which are very close to reality and not having typical Bollywood commercial entertainer which had all the song and dance. This movement was heavily inspired by Italian neorealism and French new wave movies. This originated mainly in the Bengali movies and then spread across to other Indian film industries.
Satyajit Ray is considered to be the father of parallel cinema. Before he took his first movie Pather Panchali he had assisted Italian film maker Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, French film maker Jean Nori’s The River. He said his first movie had a lot of influences from them. This was the birth of parallel cinema. Post this many able film makers started to make parallel cinema. Some of the prominent film makers of parallel Cinema are Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Basu Bhattacharya, John Abraham (director who made critically acclaimed Agraharathil Kazhuthai), Mrinal Sen, Guru Dutt, Ritwik Ghatak, Girish Kasaravalli, G. Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad, J Mahendran, Balu Mahendra and many more. They redefined Indian Cinema and made it shine on global stage. It is during this time when many Indian movies became regular feature at prominent international film festivals like the Cannes. Also movies like Pyaasa by Guru Dutt still features as all-time top 100 movies in Time Magazines movie list. And rightly the period of 1940 – 1960 of Indian Cinema was considered to be the Golden Age for Indian Cinema. Many of these were commercial success as well.
It then prevailed very strongly till the early 90’s. State government used to fund a lot of parallel cinemas which was very encouraging. However post the 90’s the commercialization of cinemas became very prevalent. Production houses had to make commercial success to thrive in the economic conditions and the cost of making a movie started growing high. Thus we don’t see much of parallel cinema coming out as it used to. Hope the government starts another movement to let the artists express their view in pure artistic format thus giving us some gem of movies.
Today you can see many of these movies digitally restored free at http://www.cinemasofindia.com/. This is a great initiative by NFDC.