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Soundtrack Mix #20: The Parallel Playlist

A musical celebration of India's parallel cinema, moving like a timewarp mixtape between the movement's origins through its later stages.
Florence Scott-Anderton
Parallel cinema cuts loose from the musicality of Bollywood and the common perception of Indian cinema at large. Coming out of West Bengal in the 1950s (although Chetan Anand’s 1946 Lowly City is an earlier contribution, making way for the wave of filmmakers shortly about to appear on the scene), parallel cinema appeared as an alternative to the glamour and dance; socially conscious and experimental in style and mood, it maps the origins of art cinema in India, and for the first time, the rest of the world was looking at India as an innovator of film language (Satyajit Ray’s 1955 train sequence Pather Panchali is one of the most celebrated in film history). In this movement, which followed in the wake of Italian neorealism, life's diegetics became the soundtrack, real life movement over set up musical numbers. 
This mix traces some choice moments in Parallel Cinema’s sound. Many songs and soundtracks from this period have a lofi quality to them—due in part to the quality of audio recording equipment throughout the years of the movement, and that many of the original prints from the early Parallel cinema are of a poor quality—therefore this mix twists and turns in that same lofi way, through different musical points over the decades of India's new wave of cinema. It is intended to experience as if listening to a time-warp tape cassette, unexpectedly moving between the origins of the movement through to its contemporary stages. 
Some highlights include Ravi Shankar’s iconic and long collaboration with Satyajit Ray and work from the unsung legend Vanraj Bhatia, composer behind such titles as Ankur (1974) and Junoon (1978). There are traditional moments; many times performed by actors as part of the narrative, celebrating love and yearning and moments of questioning, looking out into a world of family conflict and poverty. Moving from the early years, into the 1980s, the tradition blends into new realms, such as a scene in Party (1984), where the boombox plays contemporary dance and is the focal point for a new literary elite, worlds away from working class struggles. These moments are a far cry from Bollywood, instead used to enforce social commentary and the character’s own universe. 
  1. The Guerilla Fighter (Mrinal Sen, 1973) excerpt 00:00
  2. Ravi Shankar, “Anpur World Of Apu, Pt. 1”, The World Of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959) 01:45
  3. Roshan Kumari, “Kathak”, The Music Room (Satyajit Ray, 1958) 03:15
  4. Ravi Shankar, “Song Of The Little Road”, Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) 06:25
  5. A Touch Of Spice (Ketan Mehta, 1987) excerpt  08:10
  6. Lowly City (Chetan Anand, 1946) excerpt 10:30
  7. The Seventh Horse of the Sun (Shyam Benegal, 1992) excerpt  12:10
  8. Ravi Shankar, “Anpur World Of Apu, Pt. 1”, The World Of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959) 14:00
  9. Party (Govind Nihalani, 1984) excerpt 16:04
  10. A Touch Of Spice (Ketan Mehta, 1987) excerpt 16:50
  11. Ravi Shankar, “Song Of The Little Road”, Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) 20:48
  12. Vanraj Bhatia, “Music”, Bhumika (Shyam Benegal, 1977) 21:44
  13. Vanraj Bhatia, “Mero Gaam Katha Parey”, The Churning (Shyam Benegal, 1976) 25:30
  14. Om-Dar-Ba-Dar (Kamal Swaroop,1988) excerpt 28:15
  15. Lowly City (Chetan Anand,1946) excerpt 29:30
  16. The Guerilla Fighter (Mrinal Sen,1973) 31:30
  17. Ravi Shankar, “Song Of The Little Road”, Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) 33:35
  18. Our Daily Bread (Mani Kaul, 1970) excerpt 35:40
  19. 27 Down (Awtar Krishna Kaul,1974) excerpt 36:45
  20. 27 Down (Awtar Krishna Kaul,1974) 38:15
  21. The Seventh Horse of the Sun (Shyam Benegal, 1992) excerpt 39:05
  22. Vanraj Bhatia, “Titles”, Who Pays The Piper, (Kundan Shah, 1983) 41:30
  23. Vanraj Bhatia, “Mero Gaam Katha Parey”, The Churning (Shyam Benegal, 1976) 42:40
  24. 27 Down (Awtar Krishna Kaul,1974) excerpt 48:15
  25. Vanraj Bhatia,”Tumhare Bin Jeena”, Bhumika (Shyam Benegal, 1977) 50:45
  26. Ravi Shankar, “Apur Sansar”, The World Of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959) 52:35


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