WHAT it is…

A blanket term designated to certain types of films produced in India that stray away from the conventions of popular mainstream cinema. Although it accommodates minor film movements within, Parallel Cinema is not a film movement in itself and has no theoretical framework standardising it. The films and filmmakers associated with this tag often have little to do with each other ideologically or stylistically.

WHO its pioneers were...

Parallel Cinema in India has assumed various forms through the years, starting from the Neorealism-influenced films of Nehruvian India, through the more politically radical films of the Seventies and the liberal humanist films that are called independent cinema.

Major names affiliated with Parallel Cinema include Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, M. S. Sathyu, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Kasaravalli and G. Aravindan.

WHY it is important...

The line between Parallel Cinema and mainstream cinema has progressively been blurring as we witness certain mainstream filmmakers experimenting with form and ideas and with socially-engaged cinema reducing itself to a formula. Nevertheless, the ghost of what has been known as Parallel Cinema has always been resurrected to label, contain, market or reject formally or intellectually challenging films.

WHERE to find it...

Adoor Gopalakrishnan's The Rat Trap (1981) centres on an idle, even good-for-nothing, man who takes his privileged position in the patriarchy and feudal system for granted, until it all comes down like a pack of cards. The direction is academic, with a keen eye towards framing, colour and composition. This quintessential Parallel film deals with themes that are rarely confronted in mainstream cinema.

How it is characterised…


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 modernisation and class warfare and regularly lean towards the left of centre.


Parallel films are characterised by their rejection of popular forms, especially the song and fight sequences, their affinity for rural settings or working class, use of method actors, a penchant for close-ups and lengthy shots, a spare use of musical score, toned down colour 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.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 10:22:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-columns/parallel-cinema/article3412051.ece

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