What is Tollywood?

Tollywood is the part of Indian cinema that is dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Telugu language that is widely spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This is why it is also known as Telugu cinema. The first Indian film that East India Film Company produced in 1933 was Savitri, which was in Telugu. According to viewers, Tollywood movies mostly have good hero introduction scenes that satisfy fans.

If it’s your first time to hear about Tollywood and you’d like to know more about it, you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to give you more information on what Tollywood is.

History of Tollywood

The Tollywood or Telugu film industry originated in 1912 with silent films. The very first movie that was produced was Anusha Adusumalli in 1921, which was directed by Raghupathi Venkaiah together with his son R.S. Prakash. In 1936, the very first film studio in South India was built by Nidamarthi Surayya, and it was called Durga Cinetone. This studio is located in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. In 1935, Andhra Cine Tone was then created in Visakhapatnam by Jaganadha Raju. It is where he introduced digital theater sound in the film Jagadamba in 1935.

Introduction and Popularity of the “Talkie”

In 1931, the very first Tollywood film with audible dialogue was produced by H.M. Reddy, titled Bhakta Prahlada. He also directed the first bilingual talkie titled Kalidas in the same year, which was in Telugu and Tamil languages. Bhakta Prahlada was first released on September 15, 1931, and this date became the “Telugu Film Day,” commemorating its completion. The following year, the industry saw its first major commercial success with the film Lavakusa. With this, Tollywood films called talkies, which have sounds, quickly grew in number and popularity.

By 1936, the mass appeal of film permitted directors to move away from mythological and religious themes. In that same year, a film called Prema Vijayam was released, which focused on social issues. Its success became the inspiration for other immensely positive social films. With this, Tollywood films from 1937 to 1947 focused on contemporary living.

Tollywood During the Crown Rule

In 1943, the occurrence of World war II and the succeeding resource scarcity triggered the British Raj to enforce a limit on the use of filmstrip to 11,000 feet. This was a sharp reduction from the 20,000 feet that had been common till then. With this, the number of films produced during the war was substantially lower than in previous years. But before that, an important shift happened in the industry.

There were independent studios that were formed, and actors were signed to contracts limiting whom they could work for. Aside from that, films also moved from social themes to folklore legends.

Classical Cinema and Golden Age

The first Tollywood or Telugu film that had a public release was Malliswari. It had thirteen prints together with Chinese subtitles at Beijing on March 14, 1953. There was also a 16mm film print that was screened in the United States. It was a film directed by Bommireddy Narasimha Reddy, who was a recipient of the Doctor of Letters honor and Dada Saheb Phalke Award. The Tollywood industry is one of the largest producers of folklore, fantasy, melodrama, and mythological films. It has produced a lot of films that received many awards and recognition.

The Rise of Tollywood

In 1948, Moola Narayana Swamy and B.N. Reddy founded Vijaya Vauhini Studios, which was located in the city of Chennai. A notable person in Indian film named L.V. Prasad, who started his film career with Bhakta Prahlada, founded Prasad Studios in 1956, which was also in Chennai. In 1990, with the efforts of D.V.S. Raju, the Tollywood film industry, completely shifted its base from Chennai to Hyderabad, which was during N.T. Rama Rao’s political supremacy.

In India, Tollywood or the Telugu film industry is one of the three largest film producers. In 2006, there were about 245 Telugu films that were produced, which was the highest in India for that year. The film studios in Hyderabad are involved in creative film production and employment. There’s also a fair amount of distribution among the Indian film industries. A lot of successful Telugu films have been remade by the Bengali cinema and Hindi film industries.

The digital cinema network company UFO Moviez, which is marketed by Southern Digital Screenz or SDS, has digitized some cinemas in the region. Tollywood industry holds the Guinness World Record for the largest film production facility in the world, which is Ramoji Film City. There’s also the Prasads IMAX in Hyderabad, which is one of the biggest 3D IMAX screens and the most visited cinema screens in the world.

Tollywood or Telugu cinema has produced the largest number of films in India from 2005 to 2014. In fact, it has exceeded the number of films produced in Bollywood. It’s known for being commercially consistent, and it had its own influence over commercial cinema in India. It accounts for one percent of the gross domestic product or GDP of the region. The very first Tollywood film to gross more than ₹ 10 crores at the box office is the 1992 film Gharana Mogudu, which was directed by K. Raghavendra Rao.


Tollywood may not be very popular worldwide, but it has contributed a lot of great films in India in the past years. It has also earned many awards over the years. As technology and the film industry advances, it seems that Tollywood or Telugu cinema will also be creating more movies with upgraded special effects, animation, and digital compositing, where they are good at.