The year's biggest box office event, Endhiran's first day, first show, kept its date. On Friday, the big-budget, multi-lingual Rajinikanth starrer, with an 'official' budget of 162 crore and 'unofficial budget based on market rumour of 250-300 crore, opened to packed houses, with tickets sold out days in advance.
Industry sources told Business Standard they expect Endhiran to rake in around 400-450 crore in the first month. The movie was released by Sun Pictures, part of media mogul Kalanidhi Maran's Sun Network, and Ficus Entertainment in 2,250 screens worldwide. This includes 500 screens in Tamil Nadu, 350 in Andhra Pradesh and 700 in north India.
The movie was released in three languages simultaneously. While in Tamil, it was titled Endhiran, in Telegu and Hindi it is Robot. For the first time, a movie from India will be dubbed in Japanese.
Film industry sources say each of the cinema halls worldwide screening the movie will have an average capacity of around 400 seats, totalling an audience of around 900,000 people per screen every day. Some multiplexes are screening up to 45 shows a day.
In Endhiran, Rajinikanth plays a double role: that of a robot and a scientist. Scientist Rajini develops a robot with artificial intelligence for the development of the country. It behaves like a human being, writes romantic poems and falls in love with Aishwarya Rai. The villain tries to capture the robot and gain control of it due to its extraordinary intelligence. The robot is saved from falling into the hands of the evil forces with the help of scientist Rajini.
Rajinikanth was born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. Starting life as a conductor in the early 1970s, he drove the then Bangalore Transport Service's route 10A. Raja Bahadur, now a retired bus driver, was Rajinikanth's close friend and was instrumental in his entering the movie industry.
"If it was not for his unstinting encouragement and support," Rajinikanth was quoted as saying, "Shivaji Rao would have been a retired conductor living a small home in Hanumanathanagar in south Bangalore instead of becoming Rajinikanth."
Rajinikanth made his debut 35-years ago with an inconsequential role in Tamil film Apoorva Raagangal (1975), directed by Kailasam Balachander. A vast majority of Rajinikanth's successful movies were released in the '80s and '90s, and include Thalapathy, Mannan, Annamalai, Uzhaippali, Veera, Badsha, Muthu, Arunachalam and Padayappa. After a setback in 2002 with the movie Baba, Chandramukhi was Rajinikanth's comeback film when it was released in April 2005.
In Endhiran, Rajinikanth worked a magical combination of beauty (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), and brains (hi-tech and financial) to create what industry experts describe as "the best alliance in the history of the movie industry". Agrees the 60-year old superstar: "There are four important pillars to Endhiran: director Shankar, producer Kalanidhi Maran, actor Aishwarya Bachchan and A R Rahman."
Rajinikanth is proud that this film is not only about big bucks, but also about high tech. "This is the first scientific movie made with Hollywood standards in India. First of its kind." he claims.
Some of the foreign experts that have worked in the movie include costume designer Mary E Vogt, who has worked for the Men in Black series, and stunt coordinator Yuen Woo Ping, who was action choreographer for The Matrix.
Endhiran is based on two novels by late Sujatha, a renowned tech-savvy writer. The movie has 1,500 graphical shots -- a record for Indian cinema. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the cost was incurred on the special effects.
Rajini's films have released in Japan for nearly 15 years now, with the launch of Muthu -- The Dancing Maharaja and recently his movies were screened in the US. Sivaji, which first saw the Rajini-Sankar combo, debuted in the UK top 10 at the box office.
"We are hearing that China and Africa are on the list of possible release destinations for Endhiran, which is unheard of for Tamil cinema," said a source involved in the marketing activities. The movie will also be released in traditional global markets like the US, UK, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
Sun Pictures has launched its promotional activities in full steam. According to the company's Hansraj Saxena, 30 crore has been earmarked for promotional and marketing activities. According to him, this film will have Asia's biggest budget so far.