Sony PicturesReleasing India is teaming up with Sanjay Leela Bhansali to co-produce Sony'sfirst Indian feature Saawariya (Beloved)in Hindi.

"India hasa rich and a prolific film history," Michael Lynton, chairman and chiefexecutive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), said.

"We at Sony Picturesrecognise the potential and importance of the Indian market and welcome theopportunity to team up with the film industry in India.

"This is adefining moment for us as a company and for filmmakers, artists and audiencesin India as well."

"SanjayLeela Bhansali's body of work has been in a class of its own," SPE vicechairman and chairman of the motion picture group Amy Pascal added.

"From hisvery first endeavour, Khamoshi, through Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam to Devdas, and his most recent criticallyacclaimed film, Black,his films have epitomised sensitivity and embodied visual splendour. We areindeed proud to associate with one of India's most revered directors."

"It marks the dawn of anew and exciting chapter in the life of Sony Pictures Releasing, India generalmanager Uday Singh said.

"This presents awonderful opportunity to extend our horizons beyond motion picture distributionand interact with the enormous creativity that the Indian film industry has tooffer.

Bhansali's Devdas was selected as India's 2003 foreign language Oscarsubmission and won the Asian Film Award at the MTV Asia Awards the same year.It also earned a BAFTA nomination for best film not in the English language.

In 2001, Sony was involved inthe distribution of Ashutosh Gawariker's Oscar-nominated Lagaan on the global Hindi circuit through SET Pictures, adivision of the studio's Indian venture Sony Entertainment Television. Lagaan was also distributed theatrically on theEnglish-language theatre circuit in the US by Sony Pictures Classics.