'3 Idiots' now all-time top Hindi film

Aamir Khan movie also North America's No. 1

NEW DELHI -- "3 Idiots" has become the highest-grossing Hindi-language film ever, collecting a record $51 million from both domestic and international markets, the highest revenue ever earned by any Indian film, opening with 1,500 prints in India and 344 prints overseas.

Distributed worldwide by Reliance Big Pictures and directed by Raju Hirani, "3 Idiots" stars actor Aamir Khan as one of a trio of college friends. Within its first 10 days of release, the film, budgeted at an estimated $10 million (450 million rupees), also became the highest-grossing Hindi film in North America with $4.75 million, according to boxofficeguru.com.

The India take is estimated at about $33 million to date. The earlier record holder was Khan's 2008 action caper "Ghajini" which grossed $50 million worldwide.

On his blog, Khan said, "In less than 10 days, '3I' has overtaken the entire business of "Ghajini"... and is still going strong. I have no idea how to describe what is happening." Khan also added that he is "not a numbers person (because) numbers don't mean anything to me except that they act as a yard stick to tell me how much the film has been seen and loved."

The previous record holder for a Hindi film in North America was 2008's musical caper "Om Shanti Om" which collected $3.6 million.

"3 Idiots" is still registering average occupancy levels in India at about 60-70% and observers reckon the film could top the $66 million.

The film received more than its fair share of publicity when author Chetan Bhagat alleged that he was not given proper credit as the film is based on his novel "Five Point Someone."

The public row took an ugly turn on New Year's day at a press conference in Delhi, when the film's producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra shouted at a TV reporter to "shut up" when asked about the controversy. Chopra apologized the next day for his outburst.

"3 Idiots" has also been embroiled in another controversy, with the government of the western state of Maharashtra launching an investigation about a scene in the film which is allegedly based on a real-life college ragging incident where some new students are harassed by older students.