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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi North chapter.

True faces with authentic stories. Parallel cinema is all about films that are rooted in reality. It is successfully giving the Indian audience some of the most thought-provoking and engaging films of all time. These are true gems that are made with heart and passion, it’s also often used as a tool to critique the follies of society. These films dive into the realities of everyday life, challenge mainstream narratives and offer comments on societal issues, cultural norms and political dynamics. For instance, some of the political critiques in these films challenge authoritarianism, corruption, abuse of power, etc. Ultimately, the true beauty of these films lies in the authenticity with which they are crafted. These are some unfiltered stories that have carved out beauty from crude realities.

Parallel films (popularly called art films) is a film movement that emerged in India, specifically Bengal, in the 1950s and 1960s. It is characterized by its focus on grounded and serious content, emphasizing realism and naturalism in storytelling. It served as a response to the dominant mainstream cinema of the time. Filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Bimal Roy were the pioneers of this movement and paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps. They were primarily telling stories that were socially awakening and relatable. The idea was to make films with simplicity and honesty, in ways that people find them resonating with the realities of their lives.  Thus, here we are with some phenomenal and award-winning art film recommendations that are perfect for all those who wish to explore this genre –

  1. DEVI (1960) – This Bengali film, directed by Satyajit Ray, is a true all-time classic. Its story revolves around a young girl Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore), who is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Kali by her father-in-law. The film explores the theme of blind faith and superstitions in Indian society. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali in 1961 and was a critical as well as commercial success.
  1. RAINCOAT (2004) – Directed by Rituparno Ghosh, Raincoat is a film that tells the story of two former lovers, Manu and Neeru, who meet after a long time. Based on O Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’, the film is set on a rainy afternoon in Kolkata, as the two meet. Starring Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn in lead roles, the film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2005 and was praised for its emotional depth and nuanced plot.
  1. DEATH IN THE GUNJ (2016) This haunting movie by Konkana Sen Sharma can give shivers down your spine. Death in the Gunj revolves around Shutu, a sensitive and introverted young man who struggles to find his place in a world dominated by masculine aggression. The film stars Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Tanuja Samarth and Kalki Koechlin in lead roles and won the Filmfare Award for Best Cinematography in 2018.
  1. GAMAN (1978) Featuring Farooq Shaikh and Smita Patil Gaman, is a film directed by Muzaffar Ali, that explores the theme of migration and displacement in Indian society. Adorned with classic songs like ‘Seene mein jalan,’ the story follows the character of Ghulam, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh who comes to Mumbai in search of a better life. The film won the National awards for Music direction in 1979.
  1. MR. AND MRS. IYER (2002) – This poignant film of Aparna Sen begins with a bus journey wherein a sudden communal riot breaks out. The exploration of the unlikely friendship between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man during a time of communal tension is commendably portrayed in the movie. Starring Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen Sharma, the film won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film in 2003.
  1. EK RUKA HUA FAISLA (1986) – The film starts in a jury room and ends there. It is about all that happens within those four walls, when twelve jurors assemble to decide if a nineteen-year-old man accused of killing his father is guilty or not. What will be the unanimous verdict? – This Basu Chatterjee film is a remake of the Golden Bear winning American classic, 12 Angry Men, and features an ensemble cast of actors, including Pankaj Kapur, Annu Kapoor, and S.M. Zaheer.
  1. WATER (2005) – A part of the Elemental Trilogy by Deepa Mehta, Water explores the lives of widows living in Varanasi during the British Raj. The story follows the character of Chuyia, a child bride who is abandoned by her family and sent to live in a widow’s ashram. Starring Lisa Ray and John Abraham in lead roles, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007.
  1. WELL DONE ABBA (2009)This film is a true off-beat satire on the “babu-giri” (reflecting the inefficient or corrupt attitude and behavior of government officials) and red-tapism of the bureaucratic system in India. Directed by Shyam Benegal, this movie tells the story of a driver named Armaan Ali (played by Boman Irani) who is trying to get a well dug into his parched backyard. Well Done Abba won the National Film Award for Best Film on Social Issues in 2010.
  1. MASAAN (2015) “Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main kisi pul sa thartharaata hun.” Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, Masaan is a film that is set in Varanasi and explores the lives of four characters from different social backgrounds struggling to break free from the constraints of their society. The film stars Richa Chadha, Vicky Kaushal, Sanjay Mishra, and Shweta Tripathi in lead roles and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
  1. SHATRANJ KE KHILADI (1977) – Directed by Satyajit Ray and based on Munshi Premchand’s short story by the same name, Shatranj Ke Khiladi is a film that takes place in 1856 during the British Raj. The story follows the lives of two aristocrats who are obsessed with playing chess while their kingdom is on the brink of collapse. The film features an exceptional cast of actors, including Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Amjad Khan, and Richard Attenborough, and won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1978.

To dive into the rich expanse of Indian parallel cinema is like taking up a journey that lets you appreciate unique perspectives, powerful storytelling, and insightful commentary on life and society. So hurry up, add these gems to your watch list, and enjoy this journey of authenticity and grace!

Arushi Sethi

Delhi North '24

Arushi Sethi is a Chapter Member at the Her Campus at Delhi North. She is a part of the Content Writing team, writing and exploring a plethora of genres in her writings for the website including lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, wellness and culture. Beyond Her Campus, she is a third year English Literature student at Hansraj College, University of Delhi. She is currently serving as the Content Editor for Willow – the journal of The English Society of Hansraj College, and has previously served as the Editor-in-Chief for Credence Foundation, a non-profit organization. Furthermore, she is a member of the Editorial Wing of Kavyanjali – the Poetry Society of Hansraj College, and Ostraca – the Creative Writing Society. She has also written for Hans, the college magazine of Hansraj College. And with a vast experience of participating and chairing in several Model United Nations Conferences, both as a Journalist and Executive Board, she also holds a keen interest and grip over journalistic writings. Being a poet, content writer, blogger & editor, she is constantly exploring newer ways to fulfil her passion for words. For her, there is bliss in reading, writing, listening to music, singing and playing the piano.