Working with its Delhi-based exhibition partner, Australia's Village Roadshow is set not only tobecome India's first nationwide multiplex chain but is now looking to expand into local film production and distribution as well. The venture says it is already discussing deals with both Miramax Films and Intermedia to supply films for distribution across the massive sub-continent.

Priya Village Roadshow (PVR), a 60:40 joint venture between Ajjay Bijli's Priya Exhibitors and Roadshow revealed its ambitions in an interview published yesterdayin India's Economic Times.

"We are positioning ourselves as a diversified entertainment company, going all the way from the retail end to the production end,"; PVR managing director Bijli was quoted as saying, adding that the distributionoperation was already gearing up: "We are in close negotiations with Miramax and Intermedia to distribute their movies here."

A new CEO to head the production arm, believed to be Village Roadshow's Steve Kappen, will be joined by an as-yet-unnamed Pepsi executive who will spearhead the distribution division.

PVR's push into production and distribution comes at an opportune time. The Reserve Bank of India is already paving the way for increased film financing in the country by allowing banks to make loans to film companies, typically at a rate (16%) that islower than through private lending avenues.

Already The Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI), which announced its intention earlier this year to become involved in a conditional film-financing scheme (Screen Daily, March 6th), has reportedly provided loans to two filmmakers.

Meanwhile, PVR continues to develop its multiplex estate in India with the imminent opening of two more sites in Delhi plus a seven-screen multiplex to be launched in Gurgaon on the outskirts of the India's capital, early next year. The company already ownsand operates PVR Priya and PVR Saket, India's first multiplex when it opened in June 1997.

The first of the new openings, a four-screen complex with a seating capacity of 826, is scheduled for Thursday this week in West Delhi, to be followed by a neighbouring three-screen multiplex with 926 seats next month.

But PVR's theatre-building ambitions donot end there - despite Roadshow's withdrawal from international exhibition elsewhere in the world. A massive 16-screen complex is being planned for Mumbai as part of the company's long-term goal of having a total of 75 screens operating in India in the next three years.

* Phoolan Devi, the Indian legislator whose early life as a rampaging outlaw folk hero was immortalized in Shekhar Kapur's 1994 film Bandit Queen, was killed yesterday when three masked men shother outside her home as she returned home from Parliament for lunch. She was 38.