Tollywood’s great dilemma 

Jagan Mohan Reddy wants the industry, which is well entrenched in Hyderabad, to move to Visakhapatnam 

Updated - February 23, 2022 12:34 am IST

Published - February 23, 2022 12:05 am IST

Actor Chiranjeevi addresses the media after meeting Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on issues related to the Telugu film industry. Mahesh Babu, Prabhas, Koratala Siva and others also attended the meeting.

Actor Chiranjeevi addresses the media after meeting Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on issues related to the Telugu film industry. Mahesh Babu, Prabhas, Koratala Siva and others also attended the meeting. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

To shift, or not to shift, that is the question. The Telugu film industry, popularly known as Tollywood, which shifted from Madras and settled comfortably in Hyderabad a few decades ago, is now staring at another possible move to Visakhapatnam.

After convincing producers and directors to shoot several movies in erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh, actor and producer Akkineni Nageswara Rao founded Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad in the 1970s. Back then, initially most of the popular Telugu actors, producers and directors were hesitant to shift base to Hyderabad. The industry is now facing a similar dilemma over whether to continue in the established tinsel town of Hyderabad in Telangana or make a fresh start in A.P., which promises better business and which is where many actors and producers come from.

The discussions have grown louder following a recent meeting of the industry heads with A.P. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. When the A.P. government wanted to make movie tickets more affordable ahead of the release of big-budget movies such as Acharya, Bheemla Nayak, Radhe Shyam, and Sarkar Vaari Paata, the cine industry delegation, represented by Chiranjeevi, Prabhas, Mahesh Babu and directors S.S. Rajamouli and Koratala Siva, met Mr. Reddy for an amicable solution. It was during that meeting that Mr. Reddy offered the industry several sops to shift to Visakhapatnam. Mr. Reddy suggested that at least 20% of Telugu films be made in A.P., to give a fillip to the market there. He went a step ahead and asked the industry heads to relocate to Visakhapatnam, which is pitched to be the administrative capital city of A.P. His government, he said, would provide land for studios and create residential townships. He said A.P. has more theatres compared to Telangana and contributes over 60% of the revenue to the film industry. Another Jubilee Hills will be created in Visakhapatnam, he promised. Mr. Chiranjeevi and Mr. Mahesh Babu responded positively to the proposal.

But this is not an easy decision, people from the industry say, as world-class infrastructure is already available in Hyderabad, where they can make movies at affordable costs compared to places such as Mumbai and Chennai. The city also houses Film Nagar and Krishna Nagar, where senior and junior actors reside. Added to that, the City of Nizams houses Ramoji Film City, a 1,600-acre integrated film studio complex.

The question is, why should the industry move now? The government’s argument is that its sops, the high growth potential of Visakhapatnam, great locations and good connectivity such as ports and airports are hard to ignore. Moreover, hundreds of movies have been shot in and around Visakhapatnam. The city also houses Rama Naidu Studios on Beach Road. Another production house is expected to come up with a studio shortly. Location shots in Visakhapatnam have also apparently played a role in the success of many movies.

The move won’t be swift; it will be a slow and steady process, say industry players. “We see greener pastures in Visakhapatnam. The idea is slowly sinking in but it will take some time for us to move,” says an actor.

During bifurcation, A.P. lost Hyderabad as well as the film industry. A majority of the industry bigwigs are from the present A.P. region. At the same time, the Telangana government may do everything it can to keep the industry in Hyderabad. Recently, it allowed the hike in movie ticket rates when they were restricted in A.P. Relocation may be a tough call for the industry but more shoots and expansion into A.P., if not a complete shift, could be seen shortly. It’s probably a matter of time before A.P. sees its stars shine at home.

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