The Demise of Parallel Cinema

  • SumoMe

Cinema was born out of the impetus to represent the reality in a more convincing manner. After the nation gained independence, the cinema focused on post colonial issues such as poverty, illiteracy and unjustified social systems. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shanta Ram and Sohrab Modi were the few directors who made cinema pertaining to the issues of the early 1950s and their films were all chronicles of the social change that was taking place in the Indian society.

During 1970s, Indian economy was strained and the emergency imposed during that time created more frustration for the people. We witnessed suppression of civil liberties and subsequently, a Constitutional breakdown. It was during this time that Indian cinema came of age. The films made during those days addressed the growing frustrations of the Indians by completely deviating itself from ‘feel good’ movies. Thus the parallel cinema came into existence. The birth of parallel cinema is also attributed to the various film schools that produced many educated filmmakers, who felt responsible for the cause of this new genre of cinema. The trend was witnessed in all parts of the country with names like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Budhyadeb Das Gupta, Basu Chatterjee and many more. The movies like Interview, Ankur, Aakrosh captured the mood of an ordinary Indian. This new wave had great impact on the society but with the changing times, parallel cinema has lost out to commercial films. I feel that the demise of parallel cinema is one of the many bad things that happened to India. Few of the best directors like MS Sathyu, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Shyam Benegal are on the wane.

Mrinal Sen, at a recent seminar in Kolkata, said that, “No director today is capable of making films like Garam Hawa, Ardh Satya, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho. New Age cinema is certainly not comparable to these classics.” Many factors are responsible for this death of ‘new wave’. Times have changed and we have made much progress. Moreover, the tastes of audiences have changed and a filmmaker who wants to draw attention to some serious subject finds no takers. This has resulted in the loss of space for a rural/semi-urban Indian in the cinema. The films nowadays cater to multiplex audience and they are bound to make a film which sells, no matter even if it is rubbish. The advent of numerous channels, the consumerist culture and the expansion of urban India has given birth to urban-centric audiences. The cinema which once portrayed class struggles and protests against hypocrisy, has given way to more ‘entertaining’ cinema.

The satellite channels have also not shown any interest in the serious cinema or reality cinema. The directors like Anil Sharma of Gadar fame and Prakash Jha have made such great classics. Sharma’s first, and arguably the finest film, Shradhanjali found no takers. Much like Prakash Jha’s Damul and Hip Hip Hurray. While his films like Damul and Hip Hip…struggled to find takers among the private channels, Gangajal and Apaharan have raked in more on the small screen than all his previous films combined. Almost all the movie channels including Set Max, Zee Cinema, B4U and Filmy show four films a day, but on a ‘safe average’ only about six parallel cinema films a month. No wonder Kalpana Lajmi, who has directed films like Ek Pal and Darmiyaan, rues, “The channels only want films of the last five years. I am known to the new generation by some of my weaker films. Even I cannot see my favourite films like Ek Pal on television any more. The classics are lost.”

The aituation is rather bleak for the lover of serious and meaningful cinema. The filmmakers who make serious films have failed to make the cut with TRP-driven television channels. Ironically, the stakes have seldom been higher for major players in the Hindi film world and the losses steeper for lovers of serious cinema. But then, the population of this section is scanty. Even Mahesh Bhatt says, “Contrary to the assumption that people want good cinema, they don’t. Even if they get it for free, they don’t watch it. Even Doordarshan, where profit is not the main motive, does not want art house cinema. It is a battle for the eyeballs, a battle for bums on the seat. It is pure and simple economics, no art.”

You must have witnessed numerous film festivals on the channels in the name of Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Madhuri Dixit but none in the name of Shyam Benegal or Govind Nihalani.
We always rue that Bollywood does not makes good films, and over 90 per cent of the films bomb at the box office. Well you can say that you are not offered good film to watch but the fact remains that “everybody talks of good cinema, nobody watches good cinema.” The population that has created an atmosphere that contains no interest in parallel cinema. There is no doubt that our nation has progressed by leaps and bounds but as a society we have yet to cover a long distance. It will be better if we can be motivated by something that integrates our society, pricks our conscience and break the obsolete social customs. Both commercial and parallel cinema can co-exist, but only if we want!

Rishabh Srivastava

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