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bollywood, nollywood, kollywood, tollywood…

tollywood= telegu film industry plus Hollywood

nollywood= Nigerian film industry plus Hollywood

kollywood=Kolkata film industry plus Hollywood
kollywood 2 kollywood

Bollywood= Bombay film industry plus Hollywood.

what do these four film industries have in common?
for one, ‘wood’, but why -wood?

bollywood is now the umbrella term used for hindi language film or indian popular cinema or commercial Indian or hindi cinema. ‘bollywood’ is a combination of ‘hollywood’ and ‘bombay’ because the industry is based in bombay, and was inspired from ‘tollywood’, the earliest ‘hollywood-inspired’ name, referring to the bengali film industry, based in tollygunge, calcutta. according to the magazine, American Cinematographer, its name can be traced back to 1932, when an american engineer helped produced the first indian sound picture, but at a time when tollywood, and not bollywood, was the center of india’s film industry. unlike hollywood, bollywood is not a physical place as the images above erroneously show, but has become the majority cinema of india, catering to the entire subcontinent of pakistan, sri lanka, bangladesh, nepal, bhutan and afghanistan etc. in the images above, note that bollywood, nollywood are imaged like hollywood which, without saying it, is saying that they imitate hollywood. a google search for images of the above cinemas revealed that there are no hollywood-inspired images for kollywood nor tollywood. unlike Bollywood and nollywood. notice how the kollywood images stand alone in its difference from hollywood or bollywood or nollywood.

in the anglo american and even indian imagination during the 1970s, when india overtook america as the world’s largest film producer, bollywood was used again by a journalist from the popular indian magazine Cineblitz in the 1980s. many indians including actors, actresses and directors reject this term, and do not use it to describe their own cinema, because it sets up hindi cinema against hollywood movies in an overly simplified and patronizing way, blithely implying that what works for tom cruise will work for aamir khan or abhay deol or what works for julia roberts will work for kajol or vidya bhalan.

it is also a eurocentric term which suggests that a postcolonial india has to legitimate itself in the context of film imitating hollywood, an institution set up by a western entity. politically correct people call it ‘hindi cinema’ but the rest of the world call it ‘bollywood’ and despite the valid protests, the term has become common currency for indian cinema.

so…who named the indian film industry as ‘bollywood’?
not the indians! growing up I had never heard of that term. I only knew it as indian cinema, and later hindi cinema. the proof’s in the pudding , as they say, so if one compares indian cinema to american or hollywood cinema, it is visually impossible to NOT see that indian cinema is carved on an entirely differently reel-ity.

notice the simplicity in the kollywood image and the arresting way it looks like [a] reel.



  1. just discovered that there’s another -wood film industry. a fragrant wood this time: Kannada film industry, also referred as Sandalwood, and is based in Bengaluru catering mostly to the state of Karnataka.

  2. last ‘-wood’en comment: the Malayalam film industry, which some film magazines call Mollywood, is based in Kerala. It is considered to be the 4th largest among the film industries in India and is known for films that bridge the gap between parallel cinema and mainstream cinema by portraying thought-provoking social issues with top notch technical perfection but with low budgets.

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