Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Telugu cinema

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Telugu cinema

No. of screens
2409 Single-screens in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states of India.

Main distributors
Arka Media WorksSuresh ProductionsSri Venkateswara CreationsGeetha Arts14 Reels EntertainmentPVP CinemaPrasad Art PicturesLyca Production

National films
India: ₹1,350 crore (US$200 million)

Telugu cinema, also known by its sobriquet Tollywood, is the segment of Indian cinema dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Telugu language. The industry is based in Film Nagar, a neighbourhood of Hyderabad, Telangana. Since 1909, Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu, an Indian film maker, was involved in producing short films and travelling to different regions in Asia to promote film work. In 1921, he produced the first Telugu silent film, Bhishma Pratigna. He is cited as the father of Telugu cinema.


In 1933, East India Film Company produced its first Indian film, Savitri, in Telugu. Shot in Calcutta on a budget of 75 thousand, and based on a popular stage play by Mylavaram Bala Bharathi Samajam, the film was directed by father of the "Telugu theatre Movement" Chittajallu Pullaiah and cast stage actors Vemuri Gaggaiah and Dasari Ramathilakam as "Yama" and "Savithri" respectively. The blockbuster film has received an honorary diploma at Venice Film Festival. Multilingual actor Vuppaladadiyam Nagaiah was known as the Paul Muni of India, one of the influential actors of south Indian cinema, Nagaiah is regarded as the first super star of Telugu cinema.

The 1951 film Patala Bhairavi was the first South Indian film, premiering at the first India International Film Festival, held in Mumbai on 24 January 1952. CNN-IBN listed Patala Bhairavi (1951), Malliswari (1951), Devadasu (1953), Mayabazar (1957), Nartanasala (1963), Maro Charithra (1978), Maa Bhoomi (1979), Sankarabharanam (1979), Sagara Sangamam (1983), and Siva (1989), among The 100 Greatest Indian Films of All Time. The first film studio in South India, Durga Cinetone, was built in 1936 by Nidamarthi Surayya in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. In the years 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2014 the industry has produced the largest number of films in India, exceeding the number of films produced in Bollywood.

The industry holds the Guinness World Record for the largest film production facility in the world. The Prasads IMAX located in Hyderabad is one of the largest 3D IMAX screens, and the most attended cinema screen in the world. As per the CBFC report of 2014, the industry is placed first in India, in terms of films produced yearly. The industry holds a memorandum of understanding with the Motion Picture Association of America to combat video piracy. Contemporary films like Dookudu (2011), Eega (2012) and Race Gurram (2014) have each grossed more than 100 crore (approximately 15.7 Million US Dollars) at the worldwide box office. Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) became the second globally highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and the highest grossing Indian film of all time within India. The 2015 epic film Rudhramadevi is the first Indian 3D historical film

Early development

The Telugu film industry was originated with silent films in 1912, with the production and release of Bhisma Pratighna in 1921 The film was directed by Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu and his son R. S. Prakash. On the other hand, Yaragudipati Varada Rao and, R. S. Prakash Rao have established a long-lasting precedent of focusing exclusively on religious themes; Nandanar, Gajendra Moksham, and Matsyavatar, three of their most noted productions, centred on religious figures, parables, and morals. In 1935, Andhra Cine Tone was built in Visakhapatnam by Gottumukkala Jagannadha Raju. He introduced digital theater sound with the 1935 film Jagadamba.

Rise of the "talkie"

The first Telugu film with audible dialogue, Bhakta Prahlada, was produced by H.M. Reddy, who directed the first South Indian talkie Kalidas (1931). Bhakta Prahlada was completed on 15 September 1931, which henceforth became known as "Telugu Film Day" to commemorate its completion. Popularly known as talkies, films with sound quickly grew in number and popularity. In 1934, the industry saw its first major commercial success with Lavakusa. Directed by C. Pullaiah and starring Parupalli Subbarao and Sriranjani in lead roles, the film attracted unprecedented numbers of viewers to theatres and thrust the young industry into mainstream culture. By 1936, the mass appeal of film allowed directors to move away from religious and mythological themes. That year, under the direction of Krithiventi Nageswara Rao, Prema Vijayam, a film focusing on social issues, was released. Its success prompted the production of dozens of other immensely successful 'social films', notably 1939's Vandemataram, touching on societal problems like the practice of giving dowry, Telugu films increasingly focused on contemporary living: 29 of the 96 films released between 1937 and 1947 had social themes.

In 1938, Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, has co-produced and directed the social problem film, Mala Pilla which dealt with the crusade against untouchability, prevailing in pre-independent India. In 1939, He directed Raithu Bidda, starring thespian Bellary Raghava. The film was banned by the British administration in the region, for depicting the uprise of the peasantry among the Zamindar's during the British raj. 1940 film, Vishwa Mohini, is the first Indian film, depicting the Indian movie world. The film was directed by Y. V. Rao and scripted by Balijepalli Lakshmikanta Kavi, starring Chittor V. Nagaiah in the lead role. 1951 film Malliswari is the first Telugu film, to be screened at International film festivals like Asia Pacific Film Festival. The film had a public release with thirteen prints along with Chinese subtitles at Beijing on 14, March 1953, and a 16 mm film print was also screened in the United States. The film was directed by Bommireddy Narasimha Reddy, a recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, and the Doctor of Letters honour.

The outbreak of World War II and the subsequent resource scarcity caused the British Raj to impose a limit on the use of filmstrip in 1943 to 11,000 feet, a sharp reduction from the 20,000 feet that had been common till then. As a result, the number of films produced during the war was substantially lower than in previous years. Nonetheless, before the ban, an important shift occurred in the industry: Independent studios formed, actors and actresses were signed to contracts limiting whom they could work for, and films moved from social themes to folklore legends. Ghantasala Balaramayya, has directed the mythological Seetarama Jananam under his home production, Prathiba Picture, marking veteran ANR's Telugu film acting debut in 1944.


Moola Narayana Swamy and B. N. Reddy founded Vijaya Vauhini Studios in 1948 in the city of Chennai. Indian film doyen L. V. Prasad, who started his film career with Bhakta Prahlada, founded Prasad Studios in 1956 based in Chennai. However, through the efforts of D. V. S. Raju, the Telugu film industry completely shifted its base from Chennai to Hyderabad, India in the early 1990s, during N. T. Rama Rao's political reign.

Veteran actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao relocated to Hyderabad and has developed Annapurna Studios. The Telugu film industry is one of the three largest film producers in India. About 245 Telugu films were produced in 2006, the highest in India for that year. Film studios in Hyderabad, developed by D. Ramanaidu and Ramoji Rao, are involved in prolific film production and employment. There is a fair amount of dispersion among the Indian film industries. Many successful Telugu films have been largely remade by the Bengali cinema while fewer have been remade by Hindi film industries.

The digital cinema network company UFO Moviez marketed by Southern Digital Screenz (SDS) has digitized several cinemas in the region. The Film and Television Institute of Telangana, Film and Television Institute of Andhra Pradesh, Ramanaidu Film School and Annapurna International School of Film and Media are some of the largest film schools in India. The Telugu states consist of approximately 2800 theaters, the largest number of cinema halls of any state in India.

The Nandi Awards is the most prestigious award ceremony for excellence in the production of Telugu Film, Theatre and Television. It is presented annually at Lalitha Kala Thoranam in Hyderabad, India, by the Film, Television and Theatre Development Corporation of the Telugu state(s). "Nandi" means "bull", the awards being named after the big granite bull at Lepakshi — a cultural and historical symbol of the Telugu culture.

Commercial stance

Known for being commercially consistent, Telugu cinema had its influence over commercial cinema in India. As one of the revenue generating film industries, Telugu film production accounts for one percent of the gross domestic product of the region. Chiranjeevi's 1992 film Gharana Mogudu, directed by K. Raghavendra Rao, is the first Telugu film to gross over 10 crore at the box office.

2006 film, Bommarillu was released worldwide with 72 prints. Owing to the success of the film, the number of reels grew to about hundred. It collected a distributors share of 5 crore in its opening week in India. Released in six major metros in the United States, the film collected $73,200 (then approximately 0.3 crore) within the first four days of screening. A September 2006 survey done in the United States by a popular entertainment portal revealed that the film was watched by an Indian expatriate population of 65,000, which generated a revenue of 3 crore at that time. A cumulative gross revenue for the film was reported to be as 25 crore including 3.5 crore from overseas, the largest for any Telugu film at that time. Owing to this path breaking trade, the film was remade into Tamil, Bengali, Oriya and Urdu/Hindi. 2006 action film, Pokiri has been remade in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada in the following two years owing to the film's commercial success. It was screened at the IIFA film festival held in Dubai in 2006. Walt Disney Pictures co-produced Anaganaga O Dheerudu, making it the first South Indian production by Disney.

2009 fantasy film, Magadheera was released to critical acclaim; with a worldwide share of ₹78.1 crore (US$13 million) making it one of the highest grossing Telugu films of the time. The film was dubbed into Malayalam, Tamil and was remade in Bengali as Yodha-The Warrior, and emerged as a box office hit. 2011 action comedy, Dookudu was released among seventy nine screens in the USA, the Los Angeles Times quoted it as The biggest hit you've never heard of. In the rest of north, east and west India, it opened up in 21 cities. The film set a box office record by collecting a gross of more than 1 billion at the time.

2012 film Eega grossed 1.25 billion (US$19 million) including all the dubbed versions. In 2013, Attarintiki Daredi collected a worldwide share of ₹492 million (US$8.2 million). The film collected a worldwide share of ₹798 million (US$13 million) in three weeks, becoming the biggest Telugu film grosser of all time. 2014 film's 1: Nenokkadine and Aagadu, became the highest opening weekend Indian film(s) in U.S. box office alongside Bollywood films like Krrish 3 and Kick. Enhanced technology among live action animation, digital compositing, and special effects paved the way for upgrading from established cinematic norms. Visual effects based fantasy films like Magadheera, Arundhati, Eega and Dhamarukam emerged as blockbusters.

Pete Draper, P. C. Sanath, Chakri Toleti and V. Srinivas Mohan are some of the visual effects professional's from the state known for their works in Telugu films. 2015 epic film, Baahubali: The Beginning has received highly positive reviews for its visual effects, production design, narration and background score.

Critical reception

Vasiraju Prakasam and K. N. T. Sastry are one of the noted Indian film critics from the state. The industry is one of the largest producers of folklore, fantasy, mythological and melodrama films. Film makers like Kadiri Venkata Reddy, B. Vittalacharya and Kodi Ramakrishna have pioneered this genre. Mayabazar and Patala Bhairavi got critical acclaim at the inaugural International Film Festival of India in the 1950s. 1956 film Tenali Ramakrishna has garnered the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film. In 2013, IBN Live's Poll listed Mayabazar as the finest Indian film of all time. Nartanasala won the best art direction award at the Afro Asian film festival in Jakarta. Donga Ramudu directed by K. V. Reddy was archived in the curriculum of the Film and Television Institute of India, 1967 film Ummadi Kutumbam was selected by Film Federation of India as one of its entries to the 1978 Moscow Film Festival.

Sankarabharanam won the Prize of the Public at the Besançon Film Festival of France in the year 1981. Thilaadanam won the New Currents Award at the 7th Busan International Film Festival of South Korea. B. Narsing Rao produced Maa Bhoomi which was showcased at Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Cairo and Sidney Film Festivals. He directed, Daasi and Matti Manushulu which won the Diploma of Merit award at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1989 and 1991 respectively. Maa Ooru directed by him won the Media Wave Award at the Hungary International festival of visual arts. In 2003, he directed Hari Villu which was nominated in the Critics' Week section at the 56th Cannes Film Festival. Cinematographer turned director, M. V. Raghu has directed the Neo-realistic film Kallu (1988), scripted by Gollapudi Maruti Rao has received thirty state awards and has garnered special mention from the CBFC Jury. Chandra Siddhartha's 1995 film, Nirantharam based on 1948 Telangana Rebellion, has received special mention at Cairo and Locarno International Film Festivals.

Bapu's Seeta Kalyanam got critical acclaim at the BFI London Film Festival and Chicago International Film Festival, and is part of the curriculum at British Film Institute. Swati Mutyam (1986) is the only Telugu film to be sent by India as its official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards. Swati Mutyam and Sagara Sangamam got critical acclaim at Asia Pacific Film Festival. Oka Oori Katha has won special awards at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Carthage Film Festival. Vanaja won several international awards including the first prize in the live-action feature film category at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. 2012 film Dream, has garnered the Royal Reel Award at the Canada International Film Festival.

2013 Fantasy film Eega, premiered in the Marché du Film section of 2013 Cannes Film Festival has garnered awards for the Most Original Film, Best Special Effects, Best Comedy, Best Fights, Best Film to watch with a crowd, Best Editing, Best Villain and Best Hero (Fly) in the 8th Annual Edition Toronto After Dark Film Festival. 2013 Social problem film, Na Bangaaru Talli has received Best Film award at the Trinity International Film Festival in Detroit, and four Awards at the Indonesian International Film Festival. 2014 film Minugurulu was selected as Best Indian Film at the 9th India International Children's Film Festival, held at Bangalore. 2013 Cultural film, O Friend, This Waiting! has received special mention at the Erasing Borders Festival of Classical Dance, Indo-American Arts Council, New York, 2013. 2014 film Parampara has garnered the Platinum Award for Best Feature at the International Indonesian Movie Awards.

2015 historical fiction, Baahubali: The Beginning, was screened at the Open Cinema Strand of Busan International Film Festival, Indian Film Festival The Hague, Sitges Film Festival in Spain, Utopiales Film Festival in France, Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, L'Etrange International Film Festival in Paris, Five Flavours Film Festival in Poland, Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium, and the Cannes Film Festival.

Cast and crew

Chittor V. Nagaiah was one of the most influential actors of South Indian cinema. Vemuri Gaggaiah, Kalyanam Raghuramaiah, R. Nageswara Rao, C.S.R. Anjaneyulu, Yadavalli Suryanarayana, C. H. Narayana Rao, Mudigonda Lingamurthy etc., are one of the finest method actors during the golden era. S. V. Ranga Rao, was one of the first south Indian actor to win the Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Kichaka in Nartanasala at the Indonesian Film Festival held in Jakarta. N. T. Rama Rao was one of the commercially successful Telugu actors of his time. K. N. T. Sastry and Pattabhirama Reddy have garnered international recognition for their pioneering work in Parallel Cinema. Adurthi Subba Rao, has garnered ten National Film Awards, the highest individual awards in Telugu cinema, for his pioneering work as a director. Akkineni Kutumba Rao's Patha Nagaramlo Pasivadu received Cairo International Film Festival's, Merit Certificate for best feature.

Dasari Narayana Rao has directed the most number of films in Telugu, he directed Meghasandesam, which got critical acclaim at Cannes and Moscow Film Festival. Noted director B. S. Narayana was a member of the Indian delegation to the Tashkent Film Festival in 1974, and the Moscow International Film Festival in 1975. V. N. Reddy and K. S. Prasad, one of the pioneering cinematographers in Telugu cinema, have garnered nationwide recognition for their work in cinematography in various Indian languages. His film Tandra Paparayudu (1986) starring Krishnam Raju was premiered at the 11th International Film Festival of India. Akkineni Nageswara Rao's Amara Shilpi Jakkanna (1963) is the first Telugu eastman color film Actor and producer, Krishna Ghattamaneni is credited with producing many technological firsts in Telugu film industry like the first Cinemascope film Alluri Seetharama Raju, first 70mm film Simhasanam, first DTS film Telugu Veera Levara (1988) and introducing cowboy and James Bond styles to the Telugu screen.

Relangi Venkata Ramaiah, and Ramana Reddy were a comedy double act during golden era. Emergence of director Jandhyala in the 1980s saw the growth of comedy film genre in Telugu cinema. Singeetam Srinivasa Rao and Ram Gopal Varma have received international recognition for bringing out new genres. Contemporary film maker's like Sekhar Kammula, Chandra Sekhar Yeleti, Mohan Krishna Indraganti, Deva Katta, G. Neelakanta Reddy and Narasimha Nandi have made their mark among the Indian panorama sections of the International Film Festival of India in the last decade. Noted film editor from the state, A. Sreekar Prasad, known for his initial works in Telugu films of the 1980s, has garnered national recognition for film editing across multiple languages of Indian cinema.

S. V. Ranga Rao, N. T. Rama Rao, Jaggayya, Kanta Rao, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, Suryakantam, Gummadi, Savitri , Krishnam Raju and Sobhan Babu are the actors who received the erstwhile Rashtrapati Award for best performance in a leading role. Gummadi was an official member of the Indian delegation from South India to the Tashkent Film Festival in 1978 and 1982. He served as the Jury Member thrice for the 28th, 33rd, and 39th National Film Awards. Sri Sri was one of the influential film lyricists of his time, who garnered national honours like Sahitya Akademi Award, Best Lyricist and Soviet Land Nehru Award for his pioneering work.

Sharada, Archana, Vijayashanti, Rohini, Nagarjuna Akkineni, and P. L. Narayana are the actors to receive the National Film Award for best performance in acting. Chiranjeevi, widely known as Megastar, was listed among "The men who changed the face of the Indian Cinema" by IBN-live India. Brahmanandam, a Telugu actor, holds a Guinness World Record for acting in the most films in the same language.

Film Score

Susarla Dakshinamurthi, Parupalli Ramakrishnaiah Pantulu, Ogirala Ramachandra Rao, Pithapuram Nageswara Rao, Tanguturi Suryakumari, and Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna are some of the influential music composers of Southern Indian cinema. Music composers such as Pendyala Nageswara Rao, R. Sudarshanam and R. Goverdhanam made contributions to folklore and mythological films.

Madhavapeddi Satyam, P. Adinarayana Rao, Gali Penchala Narasimha Rao, Chellapilla Satyam, P. B. Sreenivas, S. P. Kodandapani, G. K. Venkatesh, S. Hanumantha Rao, have contributed their work extensively for films containing themes of social relevance. S.P. Balasubrahmanyam is a multilingual playback singer from Telugu cinema to win National Film Awards across four languages. He holds the record of having recorded more songs than any other male playback singer and has received 25 state Nandi Awards.

S. Rajeswara Rao pioneered the use of light music in Telugu cinema; Rao's most rewarding assignments came from Gemini Studios, which he joined in 1940 and with which he remained for a decade. Ghantasala, performed in the United States, England, and Germany. According to "The Hindu", and "The Indian Express" he was "Such a divine talent and with his songs he could move the hearts of the people." "Ghantasala's blending of classical improvisations to the art of light music combined with his virtuosity and sensitivity puts him a class apart, above all others in the field of playback singing"." P. Susheela, has been recognized by both the Guinness Book of World Records and the Asia Book of Records for singing most number of songs in Indian languages. She is also the recipient of five National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer and numerous state awards.

Works by S. Janaki, M. M. Keeravani, and Ramesh Naidu have received National recognition. Multi-instrumentalists duo Raj-Koti holds a notable career spanning a decade, the duo has garnered particular acclaim for redefining contemporary music. R. P. Patnaik is the current president of the Telugu Cine Music Association.


As of 2012, Dookudu had one of the largest worldwide openings for a Telugu film, having been released globally onto 1,600 screens, including 71 in Hyderabad, Telangana. The film became the first Telugu project to release in Botswana and was opened in a single screen with one show by the Telugu Association of Botswana. Dookudu was released over 79 theatres in the United States; the Los Angeles Times quoted Dookudu as "the biggest hit you've never heard of."

Further, it was released in Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Dubai and Finland, the first for a Telugu film in addition to regular overseas markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and the UK. The producers approached the high court of India for a John Doe Order to prevent piracy of the film. It set a box office record for the Telugu film industry by collecting a gross of more than 1 billion (approximately 15.7 million US Dollars). The international version of Baahubali: The Beginning was released in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste along with some European and Latin American countries.

Guinness records

  • Guinness Record had been awarded to Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad as the largest film studio complex in the world, it opened in 1996 and measures 674 hectares (1,666 acres). With 47 sound stages, it has permanent sets ranging from railway stations to temples.
  • Movie producer D.Rama Naidu holds the Guinness World Record as the most prolific producer with 130 films.
  • Telugu actor Brahmanandam holds the Guinness World Record for acting in the most number of films in a single language, +1000 films.
  • Playback singer S. P. Balasubramanyam holds the Guinness World Record for having sung the most number of songs for any male playback singer in the world, with the majority of his songs sung in Telugu.
  • In 2002, the Guinness Book of Records named Vijaya Nirmala as the female director with the most number of films, having made 47 films. In a career spanning approximately two decades, she has acted in over 200 films with 25 each in Malayalam and Tamil and produced 15 films.
  • In 2016, Play back singer P.Susheela won guinness book of world record for singing highest number of songs for any female singer.
  • Dubbed films

    The 1949 film Keelu Gurram was the first Telugu film to be dubbed into the Tamil language, being subsequently released under the name Maya Kudhirai. According to the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce, "as per the Judgement of Supreme Court in Ashirwad Films in W.P.(Civil) No.709 there will be no difference in taxation of films between the dubbed films coming in from other states and the films produced in the Telugu States".

    South Indian Film Awards

  • Filmfare Awards South
  • IIFA Utsavam
  • South Indian International Movie Awards
  • References

    Telugu cinema Wikipedia