Made and narrated by a son in an attempt to reconcile his own perception of his father with that of the public at large, Gotham Chopra’s Decoding Deepak is as much an exercise in self-help as it is a demystification of its title character. Deepak Chopra, whose protégés include Lady Gaga and Oprah, has by his own admission long seen the suffering of others as a chance to practice his craft—which mostly consists of pseudoscience and vague screeds on consciousness vis-à-vis our place in the universe. Following the celebrity guru into Thailand for his ordainment as a Buddhist monk, the film is at its best when Gotham can’t help but see through his father, who seems entirely restless without an audience and a smartphone through which to be reminded of their adoration of him. “I’m not pointing this out because I have a bone to pick with him,” Gotham says. “I’m pointing it out because it’s true.” Fair enough. He says several other damning things about his father along the way—”The more I follow him, the more I see he’s driven by an insatiable desire to be relevant”—but never comes across as vindictive. In that way, he does something a lot of other documentarians try at and fail: makes something intimate and relevant to the outside world, which is especially helpful given how many people have only seen his father’s public face.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 3, 2012