It isn’t just the title that gives away the “reveal” in the documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator.” We don’t have to remember the news coverage of this “hot yoga” popularizer, the franchised kingpin of yoga in America who made a fortune by first convincing the “in the know” in Beverly Hills to stretch, bend and sweat their way to good health — starting in the 1970s.
We know his game from the Brahman BS that pours out of Bikram Choudhoury’s pie-hole. All these credulous TV profiles, decades of chat shows and the like, from “The Dinah Shore Show” and “Merv Griffin” in the ’70s and ’80s, to “60 Minutes” and assorted other puff-piece purveyors.
He “cured” (Richard Nixon) with yoga, and Nixon gave him a Green Card for his trouble.
He “taught” Elvis. He takes credit for everything within reach, credit he doesn’t deserve.
His followers show the slavish devotion of cultists. Accusations of rape and abuse won’t sway them.
His sexism is monstrous, out in the open, “p—y” bragging, raging at the very idea of being contradicted by a woman in videotaped court depositions.
And for years, high ranking people in the court system have avoided going after him, not wanting the hassle of fighting somebody with a lot of money, a lot of Bentleys, thousands of followers and an Indian passport, which he eventually used to flee the country and the justice of civil judgements against his profane, Speedo-wearing old man arse.
Eva Ora’s film doesn’t have to underline it, put members of the State Department under oath before the U.S. House of Representatives to make the parallels clear.
“Dangerous clown” as one of those interviewed for her film describes him. You couldn’t make it any clearer if you took away the Indian passport and give him a gold plated toilet, instead.
We know this guy. Millions of Americans voted for him. And they didn’t even get flexible and fit in their bargain with a buffoon.
Ora’s cut-and-dried film uses those decades of gullible TV profiles (all journalists get taken now and again, TV ones most of all) to let Bikram tell his rags to riches story, spin his own creation myth.
And we watch him in action, decades of footage from his drill sergeant on a Speedo classes, where legions of devotees come to find fitness, good health and a guru — something/someone to believe in.
They get cursed, are deprived of food, sleep and bathroom breaks.
And with every fresh crop of “teacher school” recruits, those chosen as “talented” enough to fork over big bucks for a nine-week isolation course of intense training to be “certified” by Bikram, legions of nubile young women have been brought into his presence, encouraged and taught, and after hours, harassed, taken advantage of and even raped.
Even some of them, and many are profiled here, won’t write everything they’ve been through off to experience. He is someone who “based a lot of truth on a whole lot of lies.”
And as it was in the beginning, when only Hollywood’s hippest were tuned in to his classes, they’re slow to let go.
“You’ve never really done yoga until you’ve done a Bikram class!”
The court cases won’t change their minds, we fear. And like the other famous current example of the mercurial, dimwitted bullying, sexually abusive misogynist/narcissist, we know the True Believers’ epiphany won’t be something they welcome.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Credits: Directed by Eva Ora. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:26