A film titled Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, based on the life of controversial yoga guru Bikram Choudhury who built an empire of hundreds of studios in North America and later got accused of rape and sexual harassment, had its world premiere in the 44th Toronto Film Festival on September 10. The yoga guru had a meteoric rise in the 1970s. His fall from grace is the subject of a compelling and timely no-holds-barred documentary. The film is directed by the Melbourne-born, Los Angeles-based Eva Orner.
Film Maker Eva said that the primary motive of choosing the story of the yogi to voice the women who were prey to him as they couldn't speak out back then as the environment was not supportive. There are numerous women who have leveled charges against Bikram Choudhury out of which few got candid in the documentary. Although their allegations have been upheld by a court of California, Choudhury to date remains absconding. The filmmaker added that when the film was under processing, #Metoo happened which made the subject more exciting and urgent. She emphasized the need to show how easily powerful men get away with their crimes.
In the start of the documentary, Bikram is seen drawing his followers towards physical endurance. What follows is indeed a painful sight. The yoga guru made his disciples perform 26 yoga postures without food and sleep for a nine-week hot yoga session in a torture chamber of sorts. Just on reaching halfway the film takes a dark turn when the female enthusiasts speak on camera to describe their harrowing encounters with Bikram. Other than the interviews with the victimized women and legal adviser, the documentary also features videos in which the Guru preached a twisted sense of right and strong, which was a scandal in itself. In the climax, one can see videos of Bikram's yoga camp in Mexico and Spain, where the law can't reach him. The documentary also tries to investigate Bikram's roots back in Kolkata where he is said to learn yoga for the very first time from legendary yoga therapist Bishnu Ghosh. Later he took the techniques to the west which earned him hundreds of acolytes and millions of dollars.
Eva's productions include the Oscar-winning documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side" (2007). The filmmaker is aware that the scandalous yoga guru still has "absolute supporters". Many do not believe that he could be guilty and that there are others who "simply do not care". People are so obsessed with his Yoga routine that they are willing to overlook everything else.
(With inputs from PTI)