The term "parallel cinema" was coined more or less by accident. Inherent in the definition, however, was a subconscious process of elimination.
The cinema of which one spoke was not "non-commercial" in intent, and no producer would tempt fate by branding it as such. Nor was it "art cinema", a classification designed to drive away an Indian public as surely as an unsigned Picasso would! Nor again, was it backed by an intellectual movement that could have given it the direction of a "nouvelle vague".
It was by and large a cinema that sought to deviate from the usual melodrama by attempting an alternative treatment of commercially viable themes. Although Satyajit Ray may well be regarded as the pioneer of the parallel cinema in India, his work has never fallen within the confines of that definition.
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The Indian New Wave, commonly known in India as Art Cinema or Parallel Cinema as an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema, is a specific movement in Indian cinema, known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, with a keen eye on the sociopolitical climate of the times. This movement is distinct from mainstream Bollywood cinema and began around the same time as the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave. The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema (which has produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and others) and then gained prominence in the other film industries of India.