India is well known for its commercial cinema, better known as Bollywood. In addition to commercial cinema, there is also Indian art cinema, known to film critics as "New Indian Cinema" or sometimes "the Indian New Wave" (see the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema). Many people in India plainly call such films as "art films" as opposed to mainstream commercial cinema. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the art film or the parallel cinema was usually government-aided cinema. Such directors could get federal or state government grants to produce non-commercial films on Indian themes. Their films were showcased at state film festivals and on the government-run TV. These films also had limited runs in art house theatres in India and overseas.
The directors of the art cinema owed much more to foreign influences,
such as Italian Neo-Realism or French New Wave, than they did to the
genre conventions of commercial Indian cinema. The best known New Cinema
directors were Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, and Satyajit Ray. The best
known films of this genre are the Apu Trilogy (Bengali) by Satyajit Ray
and Do Bigha Zameen (Hindi) by Bimal Roy. Satyajit Ray was the most
flourishing of the "art cinema" directors. His films played
primarily to art-house audiences in the larger Indian cities, or to film
buffs on the international circuit.
In South India, art cinema or the parallel cinema was well-supported in
the state of Kerala. Malayalam movie makers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan,
G. Aravindan, and M. T. Vasudevan Nair were quite successful. Starting
the 1970s, Kannada film-makers from Karnataka state produced a string of
serious, low-budget films. But virtually only one director from that
period continues to make off-beat films -- Girish Kasaravalli. In other
markets of south India, like Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu,
stars and popular cinema rule the box office. Still, a few directors,
such as Balachander, Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra, Bapu, Puttanna,
Siddalingaiah, Dr.K.Vishwanath, and Mani Ratnam have achieved fair
amount of success at the box-office while balancing elements of art and
popular cinema together.