Movies have always been the most popular mode of entertainment in India. Every Friday there is buzz around cinema halls on a new release. According to the Central Film Board of India there were 1,288 feature films made in India in 2009 and 1,274 in 2010 but the number of art cinema films or better known as parallel cinema are still untraceable.
Parallel cinema known for its serious content, realism and depiction of social issues started in India way back in 1925 with V.Shantaram’s 1925 silent film classic ‘Savkari Pash’ as one of the earliest examples. The movement, initially led by Bengali cinema, began to take shape from the 1940s to 1960s – a period often referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Indian Cinema.’ Most films made during this period were funded by the State Governments with an aim of showcasing an authentic art genre.
In the 70s and 80s era the art cinema started widening its wings in Hindi cinema as well Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Mahesh Bhatt the directors of this era, tried their hand at promoting realism in their own different styles while embracing certain conventions of popular cinema in some of their other ventures. Slowly in the 90s parallel cinema saw its decline phase, the Bollywood got dominated with typical melodrama embraces fight, dance and songs.
Although parallel cinema has the power to drive change in society, throwing light on the harsh reality of society has been the main aim of this genre but as mentioned above, the charm of drama, item numbers and fight cannot be pulled out from Indian audiences and thus it gave birth to new form of cinema which included social issues with Bollywood masala.
Movies like Dor, Gulaal, Udaan, Gangs of Wasseypur deal with some of the critical social issues but they have also included the entertainment factor which audiences demand. Today there is a vast difference between old and new parallel cinema. Directors Satyajt Ray, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt started together a wave in Indian Cinema marked as the ‘Golden Period’. Now there are a few Indian directors trying to make impact. The current off-beat films, unlike the old parallel cinema, are less political and have little potential to create social impact. Due to more emphasis on business, movies are getting dominated by the commercial factor leading to fading point of parallel cinema.
Though there are some movies which have not compromised their content according to today’s scenario such as ‘The Ship of Theseus’ but at the end it is considered as an exceptional case. The question remains whether we are forgetting the essence of parallel cinema because of the influence of commercial factor in movies or whether we should blame ourselves for not appreciating the art cinema as a viewer?