Bollywood vs. Parallel Cinema

Bollywood is a term that today is used to describe the mainstream commercial cinema that comes out of India. It is based out of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay, hence the name Bollywood) and actually just refers to the Hindi language film industry. The films that are known as Bollywood films have a very specific format and often the same sorts of ideas behind them. A typical film is quite long, usually three to four hours complete with an intermission. It is almost always centered around a romance story, but sexual content is not presented at any time. Action is a large part of the story, though never leading to lethal violence and always keeping to a happy ending. The most iconic feature of Bollywood films is the song and dance numbers, often numbering in the dozens as the actors dance their way through the streets and sing about their problems or feelings. The actors used are typically well-known celebrities that are really the center of attention for the films, keeping them moving when the plot is lacking and drawing audiences for a few hours of escape from the real world.

Parallel cinema came about in the 1940s and 1950s, in direct contrast to Bollywood. Intellectual filmmakers became frustrated with the number of mainstream films coming out of India, which did not accurately represent real life and instead focused on drama or lighthearted song and dance. Parallel cinema is known for specifically rejecting such practices and depicting reality from an artistic point of view. The films contain serious content, often going deeply into social and political issues that are relevant to the nation and the time. Higher class, influential individuals are typically the target audience, as the point of the films is to change the thoughts and perspectives of those who have the ability to address these issues. They can also be effective, however, in simply bringing awareness to large amounts of people. The entire Indian New Wave movement in cinema developed from parallel cinema, making it an important aspect of the country’s film history.

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