Endhiran: beauty and the big-budget robot

Audiences flock to see star-studded sci-fi thriller, the most expensive film made in India.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Endhiran, which had production costs of Dh132million.
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ABU DHABI // The lure of robots, a former Miss World and the biggest budget in Indian film history has proved irresistible to audiences, with every cinema showing sold out since last week.

Endhiran, a science-fiction thriller starring the South Indian actor Rajnikanth and the former beauty pageant queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, is the most expensive Indian film made, with a production cost of about Dh132 million.

The Tamil film revolves around a robot called Chitti, played by Rajnikanth, who develops human emotions. He eventually falls in love with Rai Bachchan's character. Cinemas across the country scrambled to contain crowds after the film's weekend release. Many fans lined up to see the film for a second time.

Ramesh Viswanathan, 38, an IT manager and founder and president of the UAE Tamil Sangam, was one of the first to see the film in Dubai on Thursday. He followed it up with another viewing on Saturday in Sharjah.

"I went to the first day, first show," he said. "It was really excellent, so I went again." He had booked an entire theatre for the film's initial release date, September 24, but when it was postponed to October 1, Mr Viswanathan scaled back. Now he plans to arrange and pay for a viewing this Thursday for 40 men who cannot afford the Dh30 tickets.

"No one can make anything like it. The special effects are beautiful, unbelievable," he said.

In the capital, the El Dorado Cinema was packed throughout the weekend, even with two special shows added to accommodate overflow.

Each of the film's four daily screenings have already been sold out at the cinema, which seats 250, until Tuesday.

"In the 15 years of this theatre, this it the first time this has happened," said K Sura, a staff member at the theatre. "This is a record-breaking film."

Rajnikanth, known as "Rajni" by his fans, is one of the most successful and popular South Indian actors of his time. He is known for his stylised line delivery as well as a career in cinema that started in 1975.

With Endhiran, directed by S Shankar, Rajnikanth, 60, continues his string of leading roles opposite Rai Bachchan, 36. Santosh Kumar, 38, an executive with an advertising agency in Abu Dhabi and a self-confessed "Rajni fan", joined five friends on Saturday night to watch the film.

"I liked the movie. The special effects, the graphics," Mr Kumar said. "It is not a typical Tamil movie. It is more professional than anything I have seen. "I am a Rajni fan and his movies always break records. I expect this one to break even more."

Ahmad Golchin, the managing partner of Phars Films, the distributors of Endhiran in the UAE and the Middle East, said 15 theatres in the country were showing the film in Tamil and dubbed in Hindi. In Kuwait, two cinemas with one language each are carrying the film, and Oman, Qatar and Bahrain were all showing the film in one theatre in Tamil.

The film's box-office take in the three days since its release in the UAE and Middle East was 50 per cent more than all of the earnings from Rajnikanth's previous film, Sivaji, released in 2007.

"This film has been under production for a long time," Mr Golchin said. "Everyone was expecting something extraordinary." Mr Golchin said he had seen the version dubbed in Hindi, called The Robot, but spent most of his time in the theatre simply watching families, especially children, delight in the special-effects scenes.

Most Bollywood-made science fiction films have been disappointments at the box office, including films such as Love Story 2050. However, Mr Golchin said, Endhiran would be different.

"Science fiction is not much appreciated. They don't want machines, they want human emotions," he said. "But with this, there is Rajni appeal. They don't come to see the film. They come to see him."