Over the past two years, the #MeToo movement has exposed countless terrible men guilty of sexual harassment and assault, but Bikram Choudry has yet to face his comeuppance. A searing new documentary from Netflix on the “hot yoga” founder lays it all out in a blunt title: “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator.” It doesn’t bring much new information to the table, but it’s an infuriating look at the way Choudry seduced thousands of followers with his yoga franchise, while raping and assaulting innumerable women, and how he managed — so far — to get away with it. Choudry belongs in jail, and this frustrating overview provides the latest opportunity to keep that conversation in the public eye.
Director Eva Orner covers many of the details addressed in last year’s revealing “30 for 30” podcast miniseries, but with footage of the domineering guru and testimonies from several of his victims whose visible anger reinforces the tragedy. Orner stuffs the full arc of Choudry’s story into a tight 86 minutes, encapsulating the paradox of his legacy: While many of his closest confidantes express a profound sense of betrayal, they don’t hesitate to acknowledge the positive impact he had on their lives.
Choudry’s meticulous studio routine forced his disciplines to pretzel their bodies into 26 positions while he probed away at their resistance. The sweaty process was inextricable from the colorful man behind it, who roamed the rooms in a revealing speedo while hurling pejoratives to growing numbers of students who welcomed the demeaning challenge. Described by one of his former underlings as “a cross between Mother Teresa and Howard Stern,” Choudry’s theatrical antics were the perfect coup, an athletic challenge that promised his followers could improve their lives, as long as they put money in his pocket and kept him in charge.
“Bikram” wastes no time explaining the eventual downfall of Choudry’s studio, as it begins with a combative testimony in which he denies all charges. From there, however, it charts out the disturbing way that his growing stature enabled an ecosystem where he could do as he pleases. Holding court in a Los Angeles hotel where he maintained teacher training sessions, Choudry allegedly raped and assaulted close peers and newcomers alike, but it wasn’t until Sarah Braun went public with a sexual harassment suit in 2015 that the accusations began to pile up. Orner captures many of these stories, but Braugn’s …read more