Telegu-language films speak to UTV

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NEW DELHI -- Mumbai-based film company UTV Motion Pictures has signed a raft of deals signaling the company's foray into the potentially lucrative southern India film industry.

UTV has signed on Telegu-anguage superstar Mahesh Babu for two films, while acquiring distribution rights for his upcoming release "Atithi" (Guest) for the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, home to 2,700 theaters, the most in any Indian state.

Telegu has about 76 million native speakers and is the official language of Andhra Pradesh.

UTV also has entered into two movie co-production deals with Indira Prods., which will include one project with Mahesh Babu, whose 2006 film "Pokiri" is the highest grosser in Telegu film history.

"After our foray into the Tamil-language film industry with our first Tamil production due for release in September, we are happy to be making inroads into the Telegu film industry with these production, distribution and artist deals," UTV Motion Pictures chief operating officer Siddharth Roy Kapur said Thursday.

"This is the first time a (corporation) from the Hindi film industry is entering the Telugu film space in such a big way," added G. Ramesh Babu of "Atithi" production company Krishna Prods.

In addition to its strong presence in the Hindi film industry, which includes such credits as 2006's "Rang De Basanti" (Paint It Yellow), UTV has various co-production agreements with Hollywood majors, including 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Entertainment and banners such as Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment.

In July 2006, the Walt Disney Co. acquired a 14.9% stake in UTV parent UTV Software Communications Ltd. for $14 million and purchased UTV's kids channel Hungama TV holding company United Home Entertainment Ltd. for $30.5 million.
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