From Vetrimaaran to Mari Selvaraj, filmmakers have brought Parallel Cinema back to K’wood!

Looks like the 2000s would soon be the Golden age of Tamil Cinema!

Parallel Cinema as the name suggests is a type of cinema that originated in the 1950s as an alternative to mainstream-conventional Indian films. It first began in West Bengal led by the Bengali Cinema Fraternity with Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, etc. as pioneers. This variation of cinema has its inspiration from Italian Neorealism and thus forming a revolution in Indian cinema. Italian Neorealism is a film movement where the films portray the realism of the societal wrongs by unconventional filmmaking.

Parallel Cinema generally focuses on matters of realism and naturalism that can sow seeds against Corruption, Patriarchy, Nepotism, Religious Intolerances, Caste, Feudalism, etc. Due to its rigid stand against such injustices, the parallel cinema is also called the Complaint Box Cinema by many filmmakers.

It has a unique style of portrayal and filmmaking. This style includes their kinship with rural settings or the working class, use of the method or theatre artists, love for close-ups and long shots, reduced color palettes, experimental story patterns, new editing techniques, and strong rejection of incorporating any song or fight sequences.

This cinema type saw its glory during the 1970s, 80s in the Hindi industry under the direction of Gulzar, Rajinder Singh, etc., and in the Tamil movies under the direction of K Balachander, Balu Mahendra, Mani Ratnam, etc. However, this trend lost its popularity due to lack of funds and high political interferences.

But, after several decades, certain new-age directors like Vetrimaaran, Mari Selvaraj, Pa. Ranjith brought this long-lost era of cinema back to Kollywood. They have ensured to not only nurture realism in their movies but also make it their identity to produce more such promising films in the future.

On that note, here are a few parallel movies in Tamil Cinema over the years.




Parasakthi (1952)

Parasakthi is one of the very first parallel films that depicted the ill-treatment of immigrants, poverty, abuse, corruption, etc. The movie stars Sivaji Ganeshan on the lead with a screenplay by the former CM Karunanidhi. The movie narrates the story of an Indian immigrant family affected by poverty post World War II.




Kaaka Muttai (2014)

Kaaka Muttai is a light-hearted yet strong movie that differed in it’s delivery approach but didn’t deviate from it’s true message and purpose. This Manikandan directorial had Aishwarya Rajesh on the lead is a story of two poor boys trying to taste luxury.




Kabali (2016)

Kabali, a gangster flick – talks about the ideologies of freedom of the oppressed people in Malaysia starring Rajinikanth, Radhika Apte, Sai Dhanshika under Pa. Ranjith’s direction. The movie was highly welcomed for its unconventional yet classy approach, unlike any other Rajini movie.




Joker (2016)

Joker is a heart-rendering movie featuring Ramya Pandian and Guru Somasundaram on the lead. This satire Drama is directed by Raju Murugan is a self-acclaimed plot that voices against Corruption and Social injustice in our country. This film even won a National Award for Best Feature Film.




Aramm (2017)

Aramm directed by Gopi Nainar stars Nayanthara on the lead. The highlight of this Tamil Drama is that it features the parallel worlds of the poor and the rich, how Indian Science and Technology has developed yet there is no invention to rescue a child fallen inside a borewell in a satirical manner.




Vada Chennai (2018)

Vada Chennai by Vetrimaran is yet another gangster movie revolving around the struggle of the native Chennaities protecting their lands from the 1980s to early 2000. The film stars Dhanush, Andrea Jeremiah, Aishwarya Rajesh.  It spoke about the exploitation of globalization on the lives of innocents living near the seashore.




Pariyerum Perumal (2018)

Pariyerum Perumal marked the debut of director Mari Selvaraj. Unlike the previous films, this movie stands out for its strong portrayal of discrimination against the oppressed castes of society. It had Kathir and Anandhi playing the lead with Yogi Babu on a supporting role.



Asuran (2019)

Asuran is a Political Action Drama starring Dhanush and Manju Warrier on the lead directed by Vetrimaaran. This movie bagged several awards including National Award for Best Feature Film. The movie narrates the story of a father trying to save his son who had murdered a wealthy upper-class Landlord.




Karnan (2021)

Karnan directed by Mari Selvaraj was an upgrade from his previous Pariyerum Perumal. This movie is a cry for justice against caste oppression and discrimination in society by a village inhabited by the lower class. The film starred Dhanush and Rajisha Vijayan in the lead.




With such movies, the distinction between Parallel cinema and mainstream movies is blurring. Like Jai Bhim (2021), we see a lot of conventional movies adapting to these parallel and socialist ideologies. With directors like Pa. Ranjith, Vetrimaran attempting to bring back this renowned filmmaking type, it is heartening and encouraging to foresee a promising future for our Tamil Cinema in the coming years.

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