India's biggest budget movie hits screens

Three years after his last blockbuster, bus conductor turned Indian film megastar Rajinikanth returned to the silver screen Friday with a movie expected to break all box-office records.

The 60-year-old's latest film, the Tamil-language "Endhiran", has a budget of 1.65 billion rupees (35 million dollars) according to the movie's official website, making it the most expensive Indian film ever made.

The science-fiction fantasy thriller, which will be screened in nearly 2,000 theatres worldwide, had its first screening in India as early as 5 am, with some fans queuing through the night for tickets.

Some celebrated the release by bursting crackers, beating drums, showering the movie screen with flowers and even washing life-size posters of Rajinikanth with milk - a sign of purity.

A star of more than 150 films, Rajinikanth's presence on screen has been likened to a leaping tiger, and his fans are known to pray in front of life-size cardboard cut-outs of him for the success of his latest release.

"It's a superhit and the film will run for 1,000 days," one fan, Rajini Priyan, told AFP after watching the first show.

In India's southern city of Chennai in Rajinikanth's home state of Tamil Nadu, life-size posters and movie billboards of the megastar lined the streets and movie theatres.

The film, which will be released in Hindi as "The Robot" and "Robo" in Telugu, also stars former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, who is one of Bollywood's biggest names and the daughter-in-law of megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

Shooting for "Endhiran" took the cast all over the world, from the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu in Peru to Brazil and the United States.

The reclusive Rajinikanth left his job as a bus conductor to study drama in the 1970's and ever since he has acted in more than a 150 films.