Mollywood, The Thinking Person’s Bollywood

To outsiders, and indeed many in the country, Indian cinema is all about masala movies. Named after the blend of spices ubiquitous in the country’s cuisine, these films feature a mix of genres, formulaic plots and larger-than-life heroes. Most of India’s highest-grossing movies—many from Bollywood, the behemoth Hindi-language film industry—can be classified as masala. But these big-budget, action-packed melodramas belie India’s diverse cinematic output.

It is Mollywood which is leading the way in variety and sophistication. (The name nods to Malayalam, the language of Kerala state, where the film-makers are based.) It is arguably India’s most productive film industry: some 200 Malayalam films were released in 2023. Bollywood—which caters to around 500m Hindi speakers, 15 times Kerala’s population of 35m—produced roughly the same number.

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