You’ve no doubt heard of Bollywood. But have you heard about Pollywood, Tollywood, and Chhollywood? With 22 different languages spoken in India, it’s no wonder it has developed several distinct and successful film industries.
Bollywood, of course, refers to the thriving Hindi-language movie industry centered in Mumbai, India. Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay. Hence, the portmanteau “Bollywood” was derived from Bombay and Hollywood.
Pollywood, meanwhile, refers to Punjabi-language films based in India and Pakistan.
Tollywood refers to a subset of Indian cinema in the Telugu language.
And Chhollywood features films in the Chhattisgarhi language from central India!
By casting our gaze around the world, we’ve assembled some of the most surprising movie facts you’ll ever encounter. Here are the most unusual film facts you didn’t know about Bollywood, Pollywood, Tollywood, and more.
India produces more films than any country in the world
Movies are big business in India, which has a population of over 1 billion people. Movie stars are treated like royalty, and theatrical sales have grown by leaps and bounds despite the increased popularity of streaming. India releases 1,500-2,000 films a year. Compare that to the U.S., which gives theatrical releases to a little more than 700 films annually.
Why, then, is Bollywood not more of a contender against Hollywood in terms of box office sales? In India, box office receipts reach $2 billion a year, compared to North America’s $10+ billion.
One of the biggest factors is ticket prices. Various factors mean that it’s not uncommon for a movie ticket in India to cost between $1.80 and $2.25. This has kept the industry from unlocking its full potential. Forbes calls India’s film industry “A $10 billion business trapped in a $2 billion body.”
Tollywood could eclipse Bollywood soon
For the longest time, it looked like Bollywood would remain undefeated in Indian cinema. After all, Hindi is the national language of the country, with 425 million speakers. So it seemed like Tollywood, featuring the Telugu language that has only 75 million speakers, would have trouble competing.
Surprisingly, this is not the case. Tollywood films have become more popular and grossed more and more income each year. Now, at any given point, Tollywood may be more popular than Bollywood (which is exactly what happened in the first half of 2017). Many film buffs think this is an indication that Tollywood may become more popular than Bollywood, and sooner than we think.
Bollywood holds the Guinness World Record for most awarded film
What’s the most awarded film of all time? If you’re American, you might think of “Titanic” or “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” or “Ben-Hur.” And sure, they hold the record for most Oscars ever won (11 each). But they ain’t got nothing on “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai.”
This 2000 Bollywood romantic thriller was directed by Rakesh Roshan and starred Hrithik Roshan (his son) and Ameesha Patel. The two became instant stars for a simple reason: “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai” (which means “Say… You Are in Love”) is one of the most successful films of all time. In fact, it won a staggering 92 awards at various ceremonies, landing it in the Guinness Book of World records in 2002. It’s a record that still stands to this day.
One of Bollywood’s biggest stars is… French!
Kalki Koechlin is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars today. But she almost didn’t get cast in her first Bollywood role, because she is not of Indian descent! Koechlin was born in India to French parents and speaks a number of languages, including French, English, Tamil, and Hindi.
Director Anurag Kashyap originally rejected her for a role in his 2009 romantic dramedy “Dev.D” because she did not look how he pictured the character. But then, she won him over with a stunning audition tape. Her career took off from there! She has since received several prominent awards, including one of India’s highest honors, a National Film Award.
An interesting piece of trivia: she is the great-granddaughter of Maurice Koechlin, the Chief Engineer of the Eiffel Tower as well as the Statue of Liberty! It’s easy to see how Kalki stands out when she comes from a family of icons.
Bollywood’s ‘Rockstar’ was filmed entirely in reverse order
We understand that most films shoot scenes in an unexpected order. However, the 2011 Bollywood film “Rockstar” took this idea to the next level by shooting the film entirely in reverse! Why make such a crazy decision? It turns out it was all about hair.
The climax of the movie involves star Ranbir Kapoor unveiling very long, rockstar-worthy hair. The director and crew were worried that shooting the film in the correct order would mess up his hair, forcing the actor to either look bad or wear a wig. By shooting in reverse, they kept that long-hair reveal just as surprising as intended!
Bollywood superstar Sridevi played a stepmom at age 13
It’s not uncommon for actors to play characters that are a different age than the actors. For example, in American cinema, it’s common for actors in their 20s or even 30s to portray characters who are actually teenagers. With Indian cinema, we sometimes see the reverse!
Film legend Sridevi started her career as a child actress. But by the age of 13, she started playing adults! She was cast as a college student and stepmother in “Moondru Mudichu” in 1976, when she was just 13 years old. (Perhaps she can be considered a “reverse Mary Pickford,” the early Hollywood star who played children in her 30s.) For Sridevi, a string of hit films followed, earning her a reputation as Bollywood’s first female superstar.
Sadly, Sridevi passed away in 2018 at the age of 54, in what was ruled an accidental drowning in her bathtub.
A Tollywood actor holds the world record for most screen credits
How many movies do you think a truly prolific actor has starred in? Is it dozens? A hundred, perhaps? Tollywood actor Brahmanandam Kanneganti is going to completely redefine the term for all of us!
Simply put, this actor and comedian has starred in over 1,100 movies. Remember when Chris Rock made fun of Jude Law at the Oscars for starring in six movies in 2004? Brahmanandam appeared in nearly 50 movies in 1992 alone. And his output has been prolific like that every year since 1987!
In 2010, Brahmanandam was awarded the Guinness World Record for most screen credits for a living actor that was previously held by British veteran Christopher Lee. While Lee had a prolific 60-year career, his record — 244 movies — was barely more than a quarter of Brahmanandam’s eventual output! And at just 63 years old, Brahmanandam shows no sign of slowing down!
A 2015 Tollywood film made history for all the wrong reasons
Every filmmaker dreams of making history. However, everyone should be careful of what they wish for. This is what the cast and crew of the 2015 Tollywood film “Rudhramadevi” found out the hard way.
This historical epic follows the life of a 13th century queen, one of the few female rulers in India’s history. In order to take on the role of this impressive monarch, the filmmakers prepared a large amount of gold ornaments and jewelry for leading lady Anushka Shetty to wear onscreen. The jewelry alone was valued at over $700,000.
For a historical film, though, “Rudhramadevi” made history for all the wrong reasons. It became the first Tollywood film to be the victim of monumental theft. Two boxes of antique gold and diamond jewelry was stolen from the set. Police nabbed three suspects, and the film went on to earn the fifth highest opening day box office for an Indian film in 2015.
Need more Indian film trivia? Check out 10 Facts About Bollywood You Never Knew!