Fans of Indian movie star Rajinikanth thronged cinemas and celebrated with dancing and prayers as his latest film, Jailer, hit screens on Thursday.
Avid supporters of the actor, one of India’s biggest movie superstars, carried photo cutouts and flower garlands as they made their way to theatres across India.
The Tamil action film also features cameos by other South Indian superstars – Mohanlal, known for his work in Malayalam films, and Shiva Rajkumar, a Kannada star. Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff also makes an appearance.
In Mumbai, where the first screening began at 6am local time, the movie was paused for a minute as fans danced and cheered when Rajinikanth appeared on screen, rejoicing in his return after a period of two years.
Popular film stars are often worshipped like deities by their fans, especially in South India.
Rajinikanth is one of Asia’s highest-paid actors, known for his superhero stunts. He enjoys a devoted fan base that cuts across generations and even continents. His films have broken box-office records in India and in countries such as Malaysia and the UK, both of which have large Tamil-speaking populations.
Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, the actor today uses only one name. He once worked as a bus conductor for three years before attending acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, before landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry in Mumbai.
Some offices in the southern cities of Chennai and Bengaluru declared Thursday a holiday so the actor's fans could watch the movie.
"Scientists say that time machines are not possible, but Rajinikanth has the power to take us back to childhood,” said one fan named Arun, who watched the movie on opening day in Mumbai.
Rajinikanth, 72, has acted in more than 160 films spanning more than five decades in several Indian languages, including Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali and Malayalam.
What is Jailer about?
In Jailer, Rajinikanth plays a retired prison warden who learns that a criminal gang is behind the disappearance of his son, a policeman. After discovering that the gang is trying to rescue its leader from prison, he sets out to stop them and avenge his son.
Already a box office hit, the film has also received positive reviews, with India Herald in Tamil Nadu proclaiming: "The king has claimed his rightful throne back."
The film collected 720 million rupees ($8.69 million) on its first day at the box office, The Times of India reported. This includes $750,000 in ticket sales in the US, according to The Economic Times – an impressive feat for a Tamil-language film.
Agencies contributed to this report