S.S. Rajamouli will launch Applause Entertainment & the film companion show 'Modern Masters.'
"Modern Masters," a documentary series about contemporary Indian creators, will begin with a focus on "RRR" director S.S. Rajamouli. The series is coproduced by Applause Entertainment, the prolific content production arm of the $60 billion Aditya Birla group, led by Indian television pioneer Sameer Nair, and Film Companion, one of India's leading English-language entertainment journalism platforms led by former Variety journalist Anupama Chopra.
Getty Images/Film Companion/Applause Entertainment
The series was created by former Film Companion journalist Baradwaj Rangan and Avinash Prakash, who works for the platform, in response to Chopra's frustration with the lack of credible documentaries on contemporary Indian cinema.
"I have the impression that the Indian film industry is not very good at archiving," Chopra told Variety. "I couldn't even think of one or two really solid documentaries that capture an artist at a specific place and time, which then becomes a portrait not only of the artists, but also of that specific zeitgeist and moment in history."
"Usually, when you talk about masters, it always goes into the 1960s and 1970s, and the great art house movements and all of that," Nair continued. So the plan was to look into more modern contemporary creators and do a deep dive into their skins and minds."
Given that Rajamouli is currently on a white hot streak at the US awards season with "RRR," the choice of Rajamouli as the subject of the first documentary is not surprising.
Chopra describes the series as the "deepest dive" she has ever taken in her career, as the entertainment journalism format is typically limited to promotional interviews or interviews lasting 40-60 minutes. The "Modern Masters" format allowed her to delve much deeper into the subjects. The Rajamouli documentary, for example, follows him to Japan for the release of "RRR" in that country, as well as to the United States for the film's awards promotion tour.
"Rajamouli's journey from being a Telugu-language filmmaker to a pan-India filmmaker to now a global filmmaker is unprecedented," Chopra said, adding that while late Oscar winner Satyajit Ray and Mira Nair had audiences in the West, they didn't have the same trajectory as Rajamouli, whose market and global footprint keeps expanding.
"In ten years, Rajamouli will be in a different place than he is now. "But right now, this should be the definitive portrait of the man and the artist," Chopra said. "All these people who are shaping pop culture and what is shaping India right now - because cinema is such a powerful force in India - I feel we need to record this, and that's what 'Modern Masters' is."
The identities of the remaining characters in the series are currently unknown.
The documentaries will be 60-90 minutes long, and the series will air on a major streaming service in the second half of 2023. Nair believes that, with streamers transforming the world into a global village and a growing international awareness of the Indian film industry, the series will garner widespread interest.
Beyond India, the logical expansion point for the series, according to Nair and Chopra, would be the other South Asian film industries. "The global south would make an excellent hunting ground for masters, beginning with India, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, there are so many," Nair said.
Next up for Applause in the non-scripted space is a documentary series on Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, directed by Viraf Sarkari in collaboration with Salman Khan Films and Wizcraft, which is currently in post-production. Reality shows are also in the works, according to Nair.
The plan for Film Companion is to expand into longer form video journalism. ""Modern Masters" is a natural progression. And I'd like to keep pushing this idea of creating specials that go beyond what we do now, in our day-to-day lives, which is the promotional interview or the one-hour, more casual conversation. "I believe we need to take deeper dives," Chopra said.