Indian distribution and exhibition company PVR Ltd, through its wholly-owned subsidiary PVR Pictures, plans to invest $25.2m (Rs1bn) in film production and expand its slate to three to four films in the current financial year.

The company has also announced that it is teaming up with award-winning veteran filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi for two films.

These include historical epic Ashoka The Great, starring Indian actor Ajay Devgan, and Santoshi's return to the comedy genre after a 13-year break which will feature actors Shahid Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles.

The films are slated for an August 2008 and March 2009 release respectively. Santoshi's previous credits include Ghayal, Damini, Pukar and The Legend Of Bhagat Singh.

PVR Pictures had earlier entered into a two-film production deal with actor-producer Aamir Khan. The first, Taare Zameen Par, also marks Khan's directorial debut and is slated for release this Christmas. The other film, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, is likely to be released in February 2009.

PVR Pictures was initially established to cater to the film distribution business of PVR Ltd. Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director of PVR, said: 'With a proven track-record in the exhibition and distribution of films, we at PVR felt the need to expand in the entertainment space through content creation, and thus are venturing into production.

'To begin with we aim to produce five-six films out of which two are co-productions with Aamir Khan Productions and two will be directed by Rajkumar Santoshi.'

PVR Pictures is also likely to sign more deals with other directors.