The New Cinema and Parallel Movement

The New Cinema and Parallel Movement – Mrinal Sen, a talented movie maker from West Bengal is considered a pioneer in the new genre called ‘ New wave’ cinema. In the early 1970s, he was its main proponent and he had to do a lot of explaining soon after the release of his BHUVAN SHOME (1969). Without imitating the techniques of commercially successful movies which are usually mixtures of rapid action, maudlin drama, violence, erotic dancing and singing, Mrinal Sen could produce a film that was not only a financial success at the box – office but cut a new path in filmography.

Some critics are of the view that Shyam Benegal’s ANKUR (1974) was the real path – breaker and that Benegal was the pioneer of the New Wave genre. His cinematic language shook the audience with its bluntness and originality. Both Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal inspired many young filmmakers of the 1970s and 1980s, particularly graduates of the FTII, Pune. There were admirers and detractors for the new cinema. Some of the filmmakers created movies that could not easily be followed by ordinary spectators. Only intellectuals of a certain kind could appreciate them.

There is no doubt that these movies opened a new chapter in the history of movies in India. A totally new generation of filmmakers emerged. They used new techniques and evolved a new cinematic language, which was sometimes called idiosyncratic. They are all known for their originality, subversion of conventions and firm belief in the ‘auteur’ theory of the film.

Cinema, according to these directors, was the art of the director rather than of the artists or the scriptwriters . Each film is the personal expression of a viewpoint, a personal filmic expression of the director. Many of these movies were not ‘ hits’ at the box office but they earned the respect and admiration of National and International filmmakers and critics. Big names include Govind Nihalani , Ketan Mehta , Mani Kaul , Kumar Shahni , Sayeed Mirza , Adoor Gopalkrishnan , G. Aravindan , John Abraham , Nirad Mahapatra and Girish Kasaravalli . All of them pioneered a new path in filmmaking. All their films differed from the ones generally ‘manufactured’ in the ‘masala’ or ‘ fixed formula’ mould . Since these movies were not produced for any particular segment of the audience, distributors and theatre owners were not keenly interested in them; they found the conventional movies were drawing large audiences. Even the great director,

Satyajit Ray’s SHATRANG KE KHILAADI (1977) was not a financial success. The New wave directors were more devoted to the artistic side of their creation. The distinction between ‘art movies’ and ‘commercial’ movies became a popular way of labeling movies ever since the new movies came on the scene. But sometimes this distinction becomes artificial or even meaningless because some ‘ art’ movies have been commercial successes and some ‘ commercial’ ones have shown great merit and distinction on the artistic side and been acclaimed as aesthetic productions.

Some of the new movies in the early 1980s dealt with sensitive socio-economic issues. They were also commercial successes. For example, AAKROSH ( 1981 ) which won the Golden Peacock Award; ARDHA SATYA, CHAKRA, PATINAARU VAYATINILE ( Tamil ), SAMSKAARA, MARO CHARITA, ELIPPATTAYAM and CHIDAMBARAM.These won National and International honours .

In the 1970s, there was also the parallel cinema, with directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee and Guljar and later, Sai Paranjpye. Their films had songs and dances and sentiment and appealed to the middle class. By the 1980s, all the art cinema directors were making serials for television. The middle classes wouldn’t step out of the house. The cities had become so overcrowded and lawless that the middle classes, even if they had a car and driver, would prefer to see something on television rather than go out. The art cinema was finished by the 1980s because there was no audience.

The justification given for such films is that the average Indian cinegoer wants relaxation. Why should he go after realism on the screen after all the hardship he encounters daily in real life. The Indian cinema is different from other types of cinema because the Indian spectator is different. He wants relaxation, entertainment, fun, frolic, singing, dancing, maudlin and sentimental stories, crying and miraculous escape from the hard realities of life – so goes the argument.

Some New Trends: The early years of the 21st century witnessed several dramatic developments in Indian cinema. Cinema was, at last, declared an ‘ industry’ in 2001 by the Indian Government and no sooner did this happen than the gradual ‘corporatization’ of the entertainment and media industry took off. Banks, insurance companies and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) were persuaded to support the industry. The decline of the active dependence on funding from the ‘underworld’ of Bombay also had its beginnings around this time.

But perhaps the greatest impetus to the shake-up of the industry was the rapid proliferation of ‘ multiplexes’ ( multi-screen theatres ) and digital cinema theatres, first in the metros and later in the big cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune. Multiplexes offer a different experience to cinema goers, for in most cases they are part of shopping malls and comprise theatres of different sizes. Thus small budget films could be released in multiplexes and digital cinema theatres. Ticket rates are much higher in such multiplexes than in single screen theatres and therefore attract upper-middle-class families.

This has given rise to what has to be known as ‘multiplex’ films that is small budget experimental films on subjects which are rarely touched on in mainstream cinema. Young directors like Nagesh Kukunoor (Hyderabad Blues, Bollywood Calling and Iqbal), Sudhir Mishra ( Hzaron Khawaishen Aisi ) and Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday) have been able to make a mark thanks to the multiplex phenomenon. Small low budget films like Being Cyrus, Mixed Doubles, Joggers Park and other feature films were released in such theatres. At the end of 2005, there were at least 300 screens in around a hundred multiplexes across urban India.

The potential of low budget films at the box office has led to the introduction of new and bold themes by young directors both in the mainstream and parallel traditions. Homosexuality, old age  (Being Cyrus), HIV-Aids (My Brother Nikhil), live-in-relationships (Salaam-Namaste), communication with the physically and mentally challenged (Black, Iqbal ) , religious fundamentalism (Bombay , Roja) , nationalist history (Mangal Pandey : The Rising) , patriotism (Lagaan) , and rural development (Swadesh ) have been some of the issues taken up for analysis in feature films and documentaries over the last decade .