Move Over Huge Starcast and Flashy Budgets! Check Out These Gems of Parallel Cinema in Bollywood

Do You know Udaan was Declared a Box Office Flop Upon its Release? Bollywood also has some amazing films under the Parallel cinema gambit. Check out the best of these gems of Indian cinema.

By Neha Jha

Oct 12, 2017  Updated On : Jul 3, 2018

Bollywood houses the best of everything as well as the worst of everything. While on one hand, many nonsensical films go on to gross more than 100 crores at the box office, a few lose out in spite of a good story and an engaging plot. Parallel cinema has always existed. But, perhaps, they were never as appreciated as they are now. It may well have happened because of the emergence of new mediums of entertainment and the audience appreciating a wide variety of work.


Are you a lover of such parallel cinema? Would you look for the content or just star power? If you say “Aye” to the former, you will love the movies we are listing here. Chances are, you might have already seen these films. It’s a pity that while many of these found acclaim and awards across the globe in different film festivals, they received little recognition in India upon their release. But, they are worth many a watch.


Hop on to this ride down the lane of the so-called parallel cinema where talent and story reign supreme.


Ankhon Dekhi (2014)




Directed and written by the amazing Rajat Kapoor, the film stars him, Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa along with Ranvir Shorey and Namit Das. It tells the story of Rajesh Bauji who dreams of flying like a bird, carefree of all the troubles. When he finds out his daughter has an affair with a guy of ill repute, he locks her up and goes to beat the guy. However, he changes his mind when he sees that the guy is actually good. This changes his life and he takes to the path of idealism and believes only what he sees. Though initially taken to be a lunatic, his family begins to understand him.


The film received appreciation for portraying the whimsical attitude of Bauji through a glimpse of human attachments and ego. It won the Critics Award for Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Story. Watching this film might just make your day and provide you simple solutions to some of the seemingly complex problems of life.


Udaan (2010)




Said to be based on the life of one of its producers Anurag Kashyap, it delves deep into the psychology of a young boarding school student who is a victim of abuse by his own father. This coming-of-age film was directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and is hailed as a cult classic in Indian cinema. The protagonist Rohan is expelled from his boarding school and is physically and mentally abused by his alcoholic father. Later, he comes to know that even his half-brother has been abused in the same manner. This leads him to run from home multiple times and his brother gets admitted to the hospital where they befriend each other and leave together.


Though the film was declared a flop, it won high critical acclaim and soon came to be regarded as one of the best films on youth. It also won 7 Filmfare Awards. Watch it to see how It’s a story about gaining freedom and flying away from troubles to pursue one’s own dreams!


Aligarh (2016)




Directed by Hansal Mehta, it stars Manoj Bajpayee as a homosexual professor in the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. The film is a real-life story of Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who was suspended from the university after a sting operation was carried out on him to determine his sexual orientation. It stars Rajkummar Rao as a journalist who is sympathetic to him and develops a rapport with him while covering his story. His case is taken up in the court and he wins it getting his suspension order revoked. However, he is found dead soon after.


According to news reports, poison was found in his body. However, the case was closed soon after since no charges were proved against the accused 3 journalists and 4 AMU officials. The case grabbed national headlines and the film put forth the trauma homosexual people face in India.


Qissa: The Lonely Ghost (2013)




This Indian-German film was written in Punjabi and focuses on the prevalent desire of a Sikh man to have a male heir to carry his family name forward. He has three daughters and hopes the fourth child to be a son. However, the fourth child is also a daughter. Instead of killing her, he brings her up as a boy. Troubles start once she enters puberty. Even after his death, his ghost continues to live with an unfulfilled desire for a male child. The film is set in the pre-partition Lahore. It stars Irrfan Khan, Tillotama Shome and Tisca Chopra in lead roles. While the story is extremely unconventional and heart-breaking, it portrays the man Umber Singh in a sympathetic light while showcasing the deep-rooted problems of gender bias.


The story is based on a Punjabi folk tale and has been termed a gem among parallel cinema. Watching it might seem daunting, but the cinematography by Sebastian Edschmid is brilliant, to say the least.


Masaan (2015)




Probably the best film to come in recent times, Masaan is a realistic story of love being politicised under the gambit of caste and cultural values. The story is of convergence - that of a father and daughter who suffer under the sexually regressive and unorthodox mentality of the society and of two lovers who belong to two different castes but are unconditionally in love. It is hard to believe that the film is director Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut film. It was also the debut film of Vicky Kaushal who plays Deepak Kumar, a guy belonging to the Dom community who work in crematoriums. The story is set in Varanasi and showcases the stark reality of India’s deeply caste-ridden society.


Watch it for the stellar performances by Richa Chadda and Vicky Kaushal. The lyrics by Varun Grover in the song “Tu Kisi Rail Si” is deeply haunting and riveting.


Go ahead and binge watch these absolutely amazing parallel films. You never know, one day, Bollywood might just stop distinguishing between mainstream and parallel films.

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