After a gap of nearly nine years, Tollywood reclaimed its position as the largest film producing industry in the country recently. With a record 349 films produced (between April 1 2013 to March 31 2014) Telugu film industry surged comfortably ahead of Tamil (326) and Hindi (263) industries, respectively. In the seven months since we've had over 160 films have been made and indications are that the quantum is tipped to be very high this year as well.The advent of digital filmmaking has lead to a deluge of low budget films in the last couple of years in Tollywood, aver filmmakers.
Last year, when SS Rajamouli began shooting his upcoming film, Baahubali, he confirmed that it's going to be his first full-fledged digitally shot film, although he did use digital cameras for few scenes in Eega. Another prominent filmmaker, Sukumar can't stop raving about the freedom which digital cameras give him. "Earlier, when I used to shoot a film, I couldn't stop thinking about how much money I'm spending every time the camera rolls. However, once I began using digital cameras, I could shoot a lot more footage without worrying too much about the budget or the film negative. It has taken a huge burden off my shoulders," Sukumar says.
Producer Shyam Prasad Reddy reckons the spurt in the number of films being produced to a result of dip in movie budgets. "Almost anyone who has a story to tell can make a film with something as basic as a 5D camera. Earlier, making a film involved a lot of capital and equipment which wasn't easily accessible to the common man, but that's no longer the case now," says producer Shyam Prasad Reddy. One of the leading writers in Tollywood,Kona Venkat concurs with Shyam Prasad Reddy's opinion and says, "Today,you can make a film from anything between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 50 crore. And this means there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who wants to either direct or produce a film."
Small and low budget projects constitute a huge chunk of Telugu films being made. Filmmaker Maruthi, whose debut film Ee Rojullo inspired scores of other aspiring filmmakers to test their luck in the industry, says, "Since everything has gone digital, right from filmmaking to theatrical projection, it's helping everybody. It is great that young crop of filmmakers are coming up with some really interesting concepts; however, at the same time, we should also concentrate on quality stories to improve the success ratio in the industry."
Despite the phenomenal increase in production of films over the past few years, the success ratio in Telugu cinema hasn't quite managed to cross 10% mark. "More importantly, one should also think about how many of these films finally make it to the theatres. Indian film industry makes the highest number of movies in the world; however, there's still a long way to go for us to match the aesthetics and quality of films being made across the world. If a film is really good, despite being made on a low budget, there'll be an audience for it but most of the times, a big number of films made in Telugu or any other language don't see the light of the day," Shyam Prasad Reddy says.
While Telugu film industry's problem with the success ratio continues to persist, writers like Kona Venkat believe that there's a ray of hope, thanks to a new crop of filmmakers. "Many filma based on novel concepts have become hits. The success of films like Venkatadri Express, Uyyala Jampala, Geethanjali and Run Raja Run inspired several others to experiment and come up with interesting themes. Until a few years ago, producers weren't willing to bet on short filmmakers but it's no longer the case.We have had many short filmmakers like Merlapaka Gandhi, Pavan Sadineni and Sujeeth who've made transition into Tollywood. And the list is getting longer every day," he says.
While there's little doubt that the rise of low budget films, along with digitisation of filmmaking, has given a huge boost to the volume of film production, there's another wave that is currently sweeping the exhibition sectors, creating ripples in the industry. Over the past few months, plenty of new multiplexes have come up in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Vizag and several other cities across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Surprisingly, this has, in turn, given a boost to directors and producers to experiment with low budget and concept driven films. "There was a time when everyone used to think about A, B and C centres and unless a small film runs well in all the areas, it doesn't make much money; however, we are slowly getting used to the multiplex culture. Now, producers have a choice to just release a film in major cities, if that's the kind the audience they want o cater to, and still make money," Kona Venkat adds.