The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, June 8, 2003
Lead Article

Talent transfusion in post-parallel cinema
Surinder Malhi

Tabuís Chandni Bar embodies the present talent transfusion
Tabuís Chandni Bar embodies the present talent transfusion

A clutch of talented artistes are reviving parallel cinema while being at ease with commercial films. After a long lull, independent cinema is undergoing a veritable talent transfusion. Exciting artistes are emerging from the world of theatre, advertising, dance and even mainstream films to impel the spluttering engine of alternative cinema.

But in a break from the past, these actors and actresses are not playing by the rules. For example, Chandrachur Singh made his debut in Gulzarís Maachis and his portrayal of the subtle anguish of a terrorist won him the Screen and Filmfare best newcomer awards. Since then, Singh has switched to mainstream cinema but still keeps his ears cocked for interesting offbeat roles. His priorities are very clear: "I want to be both an actor and a star. Because if you are not there in commercial cinema, you are not there."

Money is also important. As is fame. So commercial cinema, once considered anathema, is a legitimate goal. The missionary zeal of the earlier generation has been replaced by an equally passionate driving force: personal achievement. And bouquets without mass adulation are not enough. Switching seamlessly between commercial and parallel cinema, the new breed of talent is stretching the straitjacket and helping construct a post-parallel cinema.


The talented Tabu has already made a career of doing "different things". Unlike other actresses making the occasional detour into alternative cinema, Tabu has constructed careers in both. Her Chandni Bar is a pointer to this. "I have been lucky in my experiment", she says.

Earlier, there were only a few: Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Others came but no one managed to chip away the star system. Over the years, however, parallel cinema virtually crumbled. Patilís untimely death, the defection of Shah and Puri to mainstream cinema and with Azmi playing an activist more than an actress, there was a talent vacuum. Until now, that is.

Nirmal Pandey and Rahul Bose have made a name in post-parallel cinema

At present, there are many actors and actresses whoíve become a presence in both cinematic streams. The street-grit intensity of Nirmal Pandey, who made a dream debut in Bandit Queen, is offset by the big-city cool of Rahul Bose, who pushed the sexual envelope in Dev Benegalís English August and made his Hindi film debut in Govind Nihalaniís "Indo-noir" thriller Takshak.

So, Pandey played a transvestite in Daayra and a baddie in Auzaar while Bose carried off Indian cinemaís first masturbation scene in English August. "I do not care about languages or labels", he says. "I want to do great roles. . ."

Labels have been jettisoned in the pursuit of good roles. Even the most popular stars of commercial cinema are now thirsting for offbeat roles. Aamir Khan successfully achieved this amalgamation of art and mainstream cinema in Lagaan.

Karisma Kapoor in Zubeida and Fiza gained artistic excellence through commercial films.

Again, film critic generously appreciated the elfin spontaneity of Nandita Das in films like Fire, Earth: 1947, Aks and Bawandar. "My argument is that if you can accept a Nana Patekar and a Kamalahasan doing different things. then why not a woman?"

How distinct these actors and actresses are from the earlier generation is brought out by Govind Nihalani. "The earlier generation was motivated by a missionary zeal. This generation has the passion and the talent but the driving force is individual achievement, he says.

Manoj Bajpai feels: "Presently, an artiste has a greater scope to expose his ecclecticism. With the mainstream factory creating movies like Bombay, Daayra and Dil Chahta Hai and the alternative movie-makers striving for greater accessibility, the stage has been set for a cinema of fusion..."