The Sri Lankan government has accused one of India's biggest film stars, Rajnikanth, of being bankrolled by Tamil Tiger "blood money". A senior cabinet minister provoked controversy when he claimed some of Rajnikanth's filmes were funded by the terrorist group.

Abdul Rishad Bathiudeen, the disaster relief minister, claimed the actor's fame and fortune was based on funding from financiers based in London.

The minister said he had been paid "lavishly" in "blood money."

Rajnikanth is second only to Hollywood star Jackie Chan in the Asian film rich list. Despite appearing only in Tamil films and being outside the Bollywood mainstream, he earns far more than its biggest star Amitabh Bachchan, and each of his new films sell out in hours.

Now in his 60s and usually wearing wigs in his film performances, Rajnikanth began his career in Bangalore where he funded his acting classes by working as a bus conductor. His humble origins and rags to riches story is a source of pride to Tamils who impersonate each new trademark gesture in his films. He is best known for twirling a coin through his fingers in a trick he learned collecting fares during his bus conducting career.

Today he is believed to have a vast fortune based on high profit-related fees. For his recent hit, Shivaji The Boss, he was paid £3.2 million plus a 40 per cent share of its vast box office earnings.

While he has made donations to Tamil charities, including those for the 300,000 people displaced by the final defeat of the LTTE in May, he has never been accused of Tamil Tiger sympathies.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but one politician accused of benefiting from LTTE money laundering dismissed the claims as "sheer nonsense and political mischief".

Indian film critic Meenakshi Shedde said the claims were unlikely to dent his popularity among Tamil cinemagoers. "He's huge and this won't have any impact on his career. Many Tamil politicians started as actors, but Rajnikanth as been very astute, he sympathises with his own people," she said.