Tollywood confidential: inside the world's biggest film city

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The next 15 megacities #11: As Hyderabad heads towards megacity status, its film industry is going from strength to strength. Its secret? Cutting-edge VFX and filming in multiple languages

It is rush hour on Monday morning in Hyderabad, but the city’s usual deafening soundtrack of revving engines and blaring horns is absent. The only noise comes from a woman gently sweeping the veranda of one of the large, pastel-coloured mansions nearby. The silence is even more disconcerting when you see the airport near the end of the street, and, just beyond that, a railway station. New York’s Statue of Liberty is a short walk away, as is the splendour of the ancient city of Mahishmati. In fact, Mahishmati is the first place here where I encounter any real noise – the blue special effects screens around the fibreglass throne area are rather flimsy, and a buzz from power tools carries from the adjoining parking lot, where workers are building a pirate ship.

We are in Ramoji Film City, the largest film studio in the world and the beating heart of Tollywood, India’s Telugu-language film industry. And although Ramoji is technically part of Hyderabad, in reality – with its (real) hotels, workshops, soundstages, gardens, post office, banks and restaurants – it is a metropolis in and of itself.

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