Sometimes a filmmaker is so taken with a subject that a documentary fizzles into hagiography, a problem of Jeremy Frindel’s The Doctor From India, a film about Vasant Lad, who brought the ancient Indian healing practice of Ayurveda to the U.S. in the late 1970s.
Among its methods, Ayurveda employs various spices — including turmeric, now enjoying particular popularity as an all-purpose remedy — along with catchall diagnostics like feeling a patient’s pulse. The few mainstream scientific studies of Ayurveda have failed to show any efficacy, a fact that Lad addresses forcefully. “I don’t know what is the meaning of ‘quack,’ ” he says. “When people say that anything is ‘pseudoscience,’ ‘quack,’ or it is ‘hodgepodge,’ they do not know. They say this statement out of their limited observation, limited exposure, and limited knowledge.”
Which, of course, is exactly what science demands — more observation, more exposure, and more knowledge — in order to justify the sensational Ayurveda health claims made by Lad and others. More enticing, and all too glossed over, is the film’s revelation that millionaire medical personality Deepak Chopra years ago yanked away for himself Lad’s claim as America’s Ayurvedic guru. “Dr. Lad, for reasons of his own, did not bother to modify the language. He maintained the original language, which kept its purity. I, on the other hand, did modify the language to reach a broader audience, and it worked as well,” Chopra says, throwing a bit of saffron-scented shade. “So everything is how it should be.”
The Doctor From India
Directed by Jeremy Frindel
Opens June 1, Quad Cinema
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2018