India's Rajinikanth to film new blockbuster

South Indian film megastar Rajinikanth is to begin work on a new film, his studio said on Thursday, hoping to replicate the success of last year's record-breaking "Endhiran" (Robot).

Eros International said shooting for "Rana" (Monarch) would get under way on Friday in the southern city of Chennai, once the cast and crew had conducted a ritual "puja" or prayer ceremony.

As well as the evergreen former Chennai bus conductor-turned-actor, the film will feature leading actress Deepika Padukone and music by the Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman, the studio said in a statement.

The award-winning creative director Charles Darby, who worked on Hollywood blockbusters including "Titanic", the Harry Potter series and "Minority Report", will oversee special effects, it added.

"Rana will be a live action magnum opus with Rajinikanth playing a triple role," the studio said.

The film, due out next year, will be in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu, following the successful formula of "Endhiran", which collected 950 million rupees (21 million dollars) in its opening weekend - an Indian box office record.

"Endhiran", a science-fiction fantasy, was touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made at 35 million dollars, but there was no indication of the budget for "Rana".

A star of more than 150 films, Rajinikanth, 60, has carved out a niche as a moustachioed action hero.

His fans take hero-worship to an extraordinary level, praying in front of life-size cardboard cut-outs of the actor and making offerings of milk to Hindu gods for the success of his latest release.

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