India has signed a new agreement with Italy that will see the two countries co-produce three major pictures this year, including a new movie with Sophie Marceau.

Named Lezioni di Volo (Flying Lessons), the film is due to start shooting this autumn in Italy and India with Sophie Marceau in the lead. It will mark the English-language debut of Italy's Francesca Archibugi and is being produced by Rome's Cattleya.

The Indo-Italian deal will also help long-stalled project Chromosome Calcutta finally see the light. The film was originally to have marked the English language debut of Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores but will now be helmed by Italo Spinelli, who has a close relationship with Chromosome writer Amritav Ghosh. The film will be shot at the end of 2003 in Calcutta and New York. Gherardo Pagliei's Gam Film (Rua Alguem - My Father) is producing.

Also in the works under the deal is Christmas In Bombay, the latest part of a 20-year franchise of hugely successful Yuletide Italian comedies produced by Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The bilateral deal was signed by India's National Film Development Corporation P. Parameswaran and Italian Film Department chief Gianni Profita. In addition to co-production, it also paves the way for a reciprocal distribution agreement, mutual economic benefits and help for crews shooting in Italy or India, training programs, and mutual film promotion.

"The Indian film industry is strong - there are 55 countries around the world that show Indian movies. But we also love Italian films, from Federico Fellini to Nanni Moretti. That is why we are very happy that both countries will be working together," said Parameswaran.

Italy is currently working on similar agreements with Spain, the UK and Australia,