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Gotham Chopra

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'Decoding Deepak': Reflecting On My Father

Posted: 10/10/2012 10:48 am

About a year and half ago, I set out to make a film about my dad Deepak Chopra. I thought it would be interesting. I wanted to resolve the contradiction I sensed existed in what his audience thought of him vs. how I did. But almost as soon as I started filming, I realized that the film was actually about me, about my need to define my dad or maybe even define the dad I wanted to be to my new son. And when I was done and started showing the film to people and getting their reactions, I realized that maybe this film is about people.

That's a long way of saying that "Decoding Deepak" is about a lot of things: It's about the icons we build in a culture that's constantly searching for meaning. It's about deconstructing celebrity. It's about families -- father and sons and trying to resolve love with a longing to self-determine. And it's about making sense of a world that is collapsing on itself. I think my father has become a symbol of this "flattening world" -- Eastern wisdom traditions merging with Western insights, the nexus of science and spirituality. The audience he has built primarily through his 66 books is largely trying to resolve these forces, in the world and in their own lives. I know I am -- struggling to find meaning and purpose and significance in my existence while making a living, paying a mortgage and having a political opinion at the same time. Where does dear old dad Deepak Chopra fit in in that equation?

My late friend Michael Jackson used to tell me that he just had music inside of him and all he was doing was letting it out -- whoever listened, listened. Later in his life, when he became embroiled in more controversy and scandals and wanted to use his music as a way to express his rage or articulate his response to his critics, he told me that it just didn't feel the same. That same detached inspiration that was once the bedrock of his art was lost. I've never forgotten that and when I reflect on gifted creators -- like MJ, or my dad, as I documented him through the course of this film -- I often think that at their best they are totally indifferent and detached from whomever is listening. They are singing in the shower, uncaring about any audience. Whatever they think, whether criticizing or celebrating, often has a lot more to do with them and their state of awareness rather than the person doing the singing.

The consequence of detachment can be emotional distance, which is probably something that for years I struggled with as it related to my dad. Why I felt he may be able to solve the world's problems, but wouldn't necessarily be the guy I'd go to to solve mine. Over time though, as I have personally matured, I think I've realized that the only person who can really help me solve my own problems is me. And that's something my dad has been telling the world his whole career.

I think my father -- and the film, I hope -- is really a looking glass. His rise to popularity has much to do with where the world is today, desperately searching for answers, feeling discontented by the tired ones that come from old institutions -- be they of science or spirituality. Most of his audience are people that have reached a stage of awareness in which reflection and existentialism is natural. Maybe because they have already achieved great success in their work or raised their children. Or maybe because they have suffered some sort of loss or are questioning their faith. Whatever the catalyst, these are people who are questioning larger invisible forces in their lives, and in him they find some sort of mirror. Like him, this film is what you want it to be.

'Decoding Deepak' was released on Oct. 5 by Snag Films.

 

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