Hyderabad Film Industry (Tollywood)

Filed under Basics

Every developed country has, as one of its important roots, its own movie industry. In fact, film is probably one of the best indicators of a place’s culture. With film, one can see how a nation has developed, both artistically and culturally across the years. The film industry can also put a country or a place on the map, the classic case in point being, of course, Hollywood.

India is also not one to be left behind when it comes to films. Its greatest contribution is perhaps Bollywood, the Mumbai-based film industry which has been making subtle but growing waves across the other continents. That is not to say, however, that India doesn’t have other film industries in its sleeve; there are, and some of them are as interesting. Telangana and Hyderabad, in particular, have Tollywood and, just like the movies, it has a rich story to tell.

Early Time

Like most film industries, everything started with the silent films. Tollywood had its origin in India’s Telugu language film industry in 1921, with the production of Bhisma Pratighna. The film was directed by the father-son tandem of Raghupati Venkaiah and R.S. Prakash. They would go on to produce and direct many more films in the decades to come, generally getting theater actors major roles. Their films often focus on religion, with three of their most famous works Nandanar, Matsyavatar, and Gakendra Moksham centering on parables, religious figures, and morals.

When the talkies finally broke through in 1931, the first Telugu film with sound was Bhakta Prahlad, produced by H.M. Reddy. Talkies suddenly garnered a huge following and in 1934, the first commercially successful film was produced, in the form of Lavakusa. The film, which starred Parupalli Subarao and Sriranjani in the lead and directed by C. Pullaiah, drew in an unprecedented number of viewers to the theaters and made the industry a permanent part of mainstream Indian culture.

When World War II broke out, the scarcity in resources caused the British Raj to impose a limit on filmstrip usage to just 11,000 feet. As a result, there were fewer films produced during the war than in previous years. Nonetheless, an important shift occurred before the banning: independent film making arose, actors and actresses have started signing contracts limiting who they could work for, and film themes shifted from social issues to folklore legends. Such shifts were typified by none other than Balanagamma, a film produced in 1942. By 1947, nearly all films produced by studios had contracted actors.

The Industry Today

Currently, Tollywood produces around 150 films annually, with approximately three films produced per week. There are also several TV channels dedicated solely for the showing of Telugu movies.

Tollywood is a consistent revenue earner, contributing about 1% of the total revenues of Telangana. There are also remakes of Telugu films by the Tamin and Hindi film industries. Tollywood itself makes remakes of Hindi, Tamil, and other language films.

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