Bollywood, acclaimed to being the biggest industry in the world, produces over 1000 films every year. This figure combines a large variety of films, the usual mainstream commercial blockbusters with popular cine stars, producers and directors, the regional movies and the parallel cinema movies.
A Mainstream commercial movie basically consist of four elements – big banners, popular stars , a ‘commercially-hit’ script with ‘masala’ songs, and famous directors. It mostly works on a fixed formula and with the objective of profitability.
However, Indian Alternate/Parallel cinema has cut out a niche for itself. Mainly because they focus more on quality content of film making with a specific factors of reality and naturalism, with a keen eye on the socio-political climate of the times.
Beginning of New Wave Cinema
In the early 1940s, Indian Cinema began to flourish in a big way. Many directors like Bimal Roy,Chetan Anand and V. Shantaram started making films and are known as the pioneers of the movement of cinema. Film industry’ also came to be seen as a money making business and with this came a phase where films revolved running around trees, musicals and stardom.
the 1950s and the 60s, intellectual film makers and story writers became frustrated with mindless dance and song genre of the typical Bollywood film. To counter this, they created a genre of films which depicted reality from an artful perspective. Most films made during this period were funded by state governments to promote an authentic art genre from Indian cinema fraternity.
In the 1960s, the Indian government started financing such films, on Indian themes. Many of the directors were graduates of the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), in Pune. Ritwik Ghatak was a professor at the institute and a well-known director. The most-known Indian “neo-realist” is Satyajit Ray, closely followed by Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Kasaravalli.
In the 1970s and the 80s, parallel cinema gave careers to a whole new breed of young actors, including, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Amrish Puri, Pankaj Kapoor, and even actors from commercial cinema like Rekha and Hema Malini ventured into Art cinema.
Movies and Directors
Pather Panchali (1955)
Pather Panchali is Satyajit Ray’s debut film, and the first film of his ‘The Apu trilogy’. The remaining two films of the trilogy, Aparajito and Apur Sansar, follow Apu as the son, the man and finally the father. Pather Panchali has a universal humanist appeal. Though the film deals with the grim struggle for survival by a poor family, it has no trace melodrama. What is projected in stead is the respect for human dignity.
The time is early twentieth century, a remote village in Bengal.The film deals with a Brahmin family, a priest – Harihar, his wife Sarbajaya, daughter Durga, and his aged cousin Indir Thakrun – struggling to make both ends meet. Harihar is frequently away from home on work. The wife is raising her mischievous daughter Durga and caring for elderly cousin Indir, whose independent spirit sometimes irritates her. Apu is born and with the little boy’s arrival, happiness, play and exploration uplift the children’s daily life.
Durga and Apu share an intimate bond. They follow a candy seller whose wares they can not afford, enjoy the theatre, discover a train and witness a marriage ceremony. They even face death of their aunt – Indir Thakrun. Durga is accused of a theft. She falls ill after a joyous dance in rains of the monsoon. On a stormy day, when Harihar is away on work, Durga dies. On Harihar’s return, the family leaves their village in search of a new life in Benaras. The film closes with an image of Harihar, wife and son – Apu, slowly moving way in an ox cart.
Satyajit Ray (1921-1992)
Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker and among the dozen or so great masters of world cinema, is known for his humanistic approach to cinema. He made his films in Bengali, a language spoken in the eastern state of India – West Bengal. And yet, his films are of universal interest. They are about things that make up the human race – relationships, emotions, struggle, conflicts, joys and sorrows.
Though initially inspired by the neo-realist tradition, his cinema belongs not to a specific category or style but a timeless meta-genre of a style of story telling that touches the audience in some way. His films belong to a meta-genre that includes the works of Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Chaplin, David Lean, Federico Fellini, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, Yasujiro Ozu, Ritwik Ghatak and Robert Bresson. All very different in style and content, and yet creators of cinema that is timeless and universal.