There are also several big-budget ventures, some of them multi-lingual.Baahubali, due for release on July 10, is estimated to be the costliest-ever production at Rs 135 crore and is releasing in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam too. Damodar Prasad points out that "at least two out of every five Telugu films are produced by newcomers who make no attempt to understand the nuances of the film industry". Producers pay successful actresses such as Anushka Shetty, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Kajal Aggarwal, Tamannaah Bhatia and Nayantara more than Rs 1 crore a film.

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Between 20, she had shuttled between her parental home in New Jersey and Hyderabad to act in four films with insignificant actors and stories that made no impact; she tried her luck with TV serials too in vain.

The tragic end aside, Agarwal's career itself is a classic showcase of what could happen to an actress in the Telugu film industry.

While Tollywood has its share of fly-by-night producers and directors who are known to exploit women, there is phenomenal pressure even otherwise to survive and grow because of the intense competition.

To top it, the producers' preference for light and fair complexions has meant that only one in every five successful film actresses is a Telugu.

The only ones to have a successful decade-plus-long career in recent times were Soundarya, a Kannadiga, who died in a chopper crash during electioneering in 2004, Ramya Krishna, a Tamil, Simran, a Punjabi, and lately, Trisha, also a Tamil, who is busy with both Telugu and Tamil films.

So, with the female stars in Tollywood, the common credo is: make the most of it while the arc lights still shine.

For actresses, Telugu cinema is a bigger attraction than the other southern language film markets-Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada-because it caters to a wide market in India and the US enabling heroines to earn as much, and in some cases, more than they can hope to ever get from Hindi films.

The industry churns out at least two films a week, not necessarily released-which matches and, at times, surpasses Bollywood going by the number of productions.

For every such established film production venture though, there are many who gamble with funds from their other businesses, including real estate, information technology and even agriculture to make the cornucopia that is Telugu cinema. There are several others such as Rakul Preet Singh, Anjali, Nithya Menen and Regina Cassandra in the Rs 50-80 lakh bracket.