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What is termed the New Wave in the history of Indian Cinema is not the noouvelle vogue
of French cinema with which Bresson, Godard and other experimental filmmakers were
associated in the 1950s and 60s. In the Indian context, the terms are loosely used to describe
the deliberately realist and non-commercial style of filmmaking that sometimes experiments
with form and content. New Indian Cinema is the mainspring of a renewal of aesthetics and
vitality of themes in Indian cinema.
Most of the film makers are considered to be part of this movement are from regional cinema.
They include Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G Aravindan, Shaji, John Abraham from Kerala;
Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose, U Chakraborty from Bengal; Balu Mahendra and K
Hariharan from Tamil Nadu; M S Sathyu, Girish Karnad from Karnataka, etc. A kind of
grouping by regions which can be justified by the fact that New Cinema is a direct reaction
to the total absence of roots- not to speak of an aesthetic vacuum- which characterised
Hindi cinema of 1960 and 70s.
The aspiration of this new wave movement- whose beginnings are situated around 1970-to
refuse to refuse to follow the rules of mainstream commercial cinema, and not to work
outside the commercial structures of Bombay and other regional cinemas, did not seem to be
completely off the beaten track, as attempts to innovate and go beyond the immensely
popular but purely mainstream commercial cinema did exist earlier, even from the time of
Silent Era and up to the period referred to as the Golden Age (1950s - 60s). For example in
the films of Guru Dev New Indian Cinema points to trajectories in Indian Cinema that are
identified with the emergence of certain aesthetic sensibility, a political awareness
engagement with Indian political realists, and a new style of film-making. And even more so
in the films of such path breaking directors as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, especially for his
and in the avant-garde themes and aesthetic of Ritwik Ghatak, with his limited but fervent
circle of admirers.
Some would trace the beginnings of the New Indian Cinema to Satyajit Ray and his
legendary trilogy of the Apu films, which originated with Pather Panchali (Song of the Road)
in 1955. Though socially-conscious movies were made by such directors as Bimal Roy and
V.Shantaram before Pather Panchali and the element of neo-realism predominated, they
nonetheless did not signify any radical departure from the mainstream Indian cinema. Pather
Panchali on the other hand, changed the way the whole world looked at Indian films. These
three Bengali directors (Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak) were for a long time
ignored by the Hindi film industry but they were the first New Indian cinema directors. A
link, for example, has been traced from the work of Ghatak to that of his student Mani Kaul
and Kumar Shahani. Mrinal Sens Bhuvan Shome (1969) set the trend for the New Wave
Indian film.
Unlike the popular cinema, the New Indian Cinema is almost always concerned with the
common man. The heroes are not supermen with extraordinary ambition, who have to rise
from poverty, tame the rich girl and fight the evil landlord, but ordinary men and women
acting under the pressures of ordinary living. It is a form of individualisation as the characters
no longer have to represent icons of society like the suffering wife or the evil mother-inlaw. This also explains why the form of these films is usually neo-realistic, though there is a
great variety in the films of different directors.


The root of Indian New Wave Movement is in IPTA Theatre (Indian Peoples Theatre
Association), the realist novel, and European Cinema. One of the first important outside
influences to have an impact on Indian cinema was Italian neo-realism. And other
movements, like the French new wave. The British free cinema, East European Soviet
films, German expressionism and Japanese films (Kurosawa in particular). It avoids the
escapist Hollywood and the Bombay Film traditions, and is concerned more with real life
issues of Indian Society than with just entertainment.
The establishment of the Film Finance Corporation (FCC) inn 1960 raised the expectations of
the serious film makers though they were wary of the terms of the loans provided by it. But
from 1968 onwards, low budget ventures by young film makers too begun to be granted
The realism and sensitiveness with which Satyajit Ray portrays Apu in his trilogy influenced
other directors. Foreign neo-realistic films like Bicycle Thieves and the International Film
Festivals in India also contributed to this awakening. Mrinal Sen had a profound effect on the
New Indian Cinema. Starting from a dialectical Marxism and maturing to a humanist
philosophy, his films have a certain grace and warm perceptiveness. Mani Kaul and Kumar
Shahani were much more overt in their revolt against established traditions. Their most
renowned films are Kauls Uski Roti and Shahanis Maya Darpan. Shyam Benegal
started as a neo-realistic humanist, and attacked the feudal and caste relationships that form
an integral part of Indian culture.
The role of a whole new generation of actors and actresses cannot be underplayed in the
development of the New Indian Cinema. A great many of them graduated from the newly
established Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Pune, and brought a more subdued
and less historic style of acting to the new films. Some of the most talented actors and
actresses include Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi. Their interest in film also
did not stop with acting as many of them tried their hand at directing, theatre and


New Indian Cinema mainly emerged, through the work of its protagonists, because this
revival is a vital chapter in the history of Indian Cinema. What have been its ideology,
specificity and evolutionary course since its appearance as a different alternative to
mainstream cinema? One could say that New Indian Cinema has no real theory or manifesto
but it is a reflection of various objectives. These include the desire to adopt a linear type of
narrative, and a perspective, which largely humanist and realistic in its manner of
presentation. Other factors include a careful psychological portrayal of the characters and
basically an anti-establishment view of the social and the political systems of the society- a
breakaway from the idealism of post-Independence India.
Sometimes shocking for the majority of Indian audiences (who are conservatives) is the
explicit reality which is maintained in these films. The use of songs and dance in films is also
avoided unless the theme and the story requires it. Other terms used to talk about this cinema
are alternative, parallel, art and even auteur cinema.


It received relatively modest degree of success in terms of audience acceptance

Lack of funds for proper promotion and publicity,
Lack of audience response for films without songs, dance and violence.

Mrinal Sen is an enthusiastic film maker, one who experimented with neorealism as well as
new wave. He used a range of aesthetic styles to explore the social and political realities of
his homeland. His interest in both filmmaking and Marxist philosophy stemmed from his
association with the IPTA in the 1940s. His first film, Raat Bhore (1956), met with little
success. His early films were heavily influenced by Marxist ideals and his second film, Neel
Akasher Neechay (1958) was banned by the government for two months. Baishey Sravana
(1960) and Punascha (1961), both dealt with marital relationships, reflected Sens political
fervour as well as his admiration for the films of the Italian Neorealists and his colleague
Satyajit Ray. In 1956 he made Akash Kusum, revealed his desire to break free from the
conventions of commercial films. The daily grind of living in Calcutta and its social
economic and political unrest prompted Sen to make the Calcutta trilogy: Interview (1970),
Calcutta 71 (1972), and Patalik (1973).
The year 1969 marks the official beginning of Indian New Wave Cinema with the release of
Mrinal Sens film Bhuyan Shome. This film starred renowned Indian actor Utpal Dutt as a
lonely bureaucrat who encounters the wife (Gouri) of a ticket collector accused of taking
bribes. In Gouri, Bhuvan Shome finds a fresh, throbbing pulse in a dying world. The films
use of improvisation and sardonic humour and its naturalistic depiction of rural India
established it as a landmark of Indian cinema. Bhuvan Shome went on to win the Best
Film, Best Directorand Best Actor in the National awards of 1969.
With his films Ek Din Pratidin (1979) and Kharij, Sen entered the most creative phase of
his career. In Ek Din Pratidin, Sen explores the trauma induced in a middle class Bengali
home when the working daughter fails to return home on time, in Kharij, he explores the
anxieties created by the accidental death of a servant form gas poisoning while he slept in the
kitchen. These films are masterful explorations of the middle-class morality, the structure of
everyday life and its oppressions, the mentality of domestically, and the urban setting of
Unlike Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen did not restrict himself to Bengali films. He made films in
Oriya, Telugu, as well as in Hindi. Sens work itself shows a fusion of myriad influences
ranging from Bresson to Premchand. Sen has remained active in left-wing politics.
By the early eighties, Sen, was beginning to show a different contemplative side, and his
films also
That descends on a small village to recreate the conditions of the 1943 famine in Bengal. The
reality they see raises disturbing questions, Khandhar (1983-Hindi) is another movie that
subtly explores guilt in