Mumbai-based UTV Motion Pictures (UTVM) is making a foray into Telugu-language films by signing Telugu star Mahesh Babu, one of the most bankable stars in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, for two movies.

The company has also acquired the Andhra Pradesh distribution rights for Mahesh Babu's next film Atithi, co-starring Amrita Rao, which is scheduled for release in October 2007. His last film, Pokhiri, is the highest grosser in the history of the Telugu film industry.

UTVM's plans include a slate of film productions and distribution deals in the Telugu film industry, India's second-largest film market after Hindi-language films. The first of the two productions will crank up within the next six months.

In addition to this, UTVM has signed a deal with Telugu production house Indira Productions to co-produce two films, one of which will feature Mahesh Babu in the lead.

'With the great work UTV has done in Hindi films we are happy to get into an agreement with them,' said Manjula Sanjay Cota of Indira Productions. 'UTV has managed to bring about a structured corporate approach to filmmaking in the past few years and the Telugu film industry is sure to gain from UTV Motion Pictures' expertise.'

The state of Andhra Pradesh has the highest number of movie theatres in India, with 2,700 theatres spread across the state and 150 in the state capital of Hyderabad.

UTVM has already stepped into the Tamil film industry withits first Tamil production due for release in September.

Siddharth Roy Kapur, chief operating officer, UTV Motion Pictures, said: 'Mahesh Babu is one of India's foremost superstars and our association with him, as well as our co-production venture with Indira Productions, coupled with our distribution acquisition of Atithi, gives us a great launch pad in this very exciting market.'