Mukherjee, Dhrubaa (2020-05). The "Other" Parallel Cinema: Song and Dance in Indian Cinema. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The classification of Indian cinema into Art/Parallel cinema is based on a significant hierarchical distinction which presupposes that judgment about Art films requires an understanding of the western cinematic language, especially its realist filmic grammar, and its shying away from "degraded" techniques of commercial cinema, like song and dance. Thus the "modern" elite class of the urban audience becomes the target of parallel films -- even though parallel films have historically been social issue and minority issue films -- while commercial cinema and its "implied viewers" are relegated to an antediluvian frame (Gehlawat 55). This theoretical classification of Indian cinema restores an elitist and Eurocentric bias in film history, which defeats decolonial, postcolonial, and subalternist vision of Indian cinema, and leads to a segregation and othering of audiences. To address and correct the complication posed by the limiting dichotomies of art/commercial cinema, I propose a reclassification of Indian films into artivist and commercial films based on their socio political activist potential or commercial intent, rather than genre and style. Implicit in the term artivist film is the potential for transforming not just the hierarchical relations that exist between high and low art, urban and rural classes, or elite and subaltern communities, but an expansion of the role of cinema in India. Furthermore, foregrounding here before neglected artivist film songs that reemphasize local voices and subject matters can destabilize the history of Bollywood cinema that reserves films as the de facto space of dominant class and castes. Reading film songs, in the heavily regulated cinema space of India, as voices from below is especially important at a time when the Hindutva movement has strengthened its efforts to establish Hinduism as the true locus of national identity by ideologically and physically targeting Muslims, Christians, Dalits and women.

publication date

  • May 2020