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Gotham Chopra

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Decoding Deepak

Posted: 10/05/2012 8:15 am

There's nothing original left to say. For the past two weeks, I've been on a press tour with my father Deepak talking up my new film Decoding Deepak, which releases in select theaters today and also is available on demand from all the usual suspects. You get to a point in these promotional junkets pretty early on. The same questions come at you with slight variations and inflections, and the challenge becomes answering them with equally skilled alacrity and nuance. I'm not sure I'm succeeding much anymore.

So here's the honest truth about my film, which chronicles a year-long roadtrip I embarked on with my dad. When I started it almost two years ago, I wasn't entirely clear what we were doing. I had this vague idea that I wanted to try and separate the icon the world had made my dad to be from the man I thought I knew. I pitched that idea to him. He shrugged and said "okay."

I appreciated then -- and even more so now -- his trust in me, but also in himself to not draw any real lines. Something that became very clear to me over time is that my father is very comfortable with who he is, his own contradictions and paradoxes. He's truly not distracted by his countless followers nor his dozens of critics -- he just rolls along, and to begin this film, I just rolled video on him.

Early on in the process, it also became clear to me that while the narrative would slowly figure itself out, I needed to figure out my filter for the film. You see, there's a difference between being objective and being honest. The fact is, I couldn't be objective in making a film about my father. But in order for it to be interesting to anyone -- the loyal choir my dad has created through the years, the cultural literati familiar with his ubiquitous media presence, or the general population that has never heard of his primordial proverbs -- I knew I had to be honest. Of curse staying true to that came with its own challenges. The film's called "Decoding Deepak" not "Destroying Deepak." The last thing I wanted to do was hammer away at 25 years' and 66 books' worth of brand building.

No doubt, there's a healthy skepticism in this film -- in fact, let's call it what it is -- a cynicism that belies my generation. But I like to think the film moves beyond that. Not according to some of the early critics, though, who seem not to have the same appreciation for narrative structure that I do... or perhaps simply have a more refined instinct for commercial appeal. They've called the film "controversial."

So let me set the record straight: I have a deep admiration and respect for my father that far exceeds any petty Freudian resentments for not showing up at my fourth-grade soccer matches, or snarkiness because Kim Kardashian calls him her guru. On the contrary, my father represents the classic immigrant story. He came to this country with less than $100 dollars in his pocket (he'd left India with slightly more, but spent most of it at the Moulin Rouge in Paris on the way). He proceeded to work his tail off for 20-plus years while having two children, sending them to prestigious Boston private schools and Ivy League institutions, and propping them up to lead productive and meaningful lives, all the while maintaining a model marriage that is now going on its 42nd year. Somewhere along the way, he also found his true calling, abandoned his medical practice and became one of the all-time bestselling authors and most sought-after teachers in the world.

And he did it all in increasingly troubling times. Our ancient habits and modern technologies have us living on the brink of apocalypse. It's us against them, jihadists vs. jingoists, red states vs. blue states, scientists vs. spiritualists, Fox News vs. the world, but amidst that cloudy haze, there are a few who provide guidance, who shine a light where before there was darkness. Deepak Chopra -- my dad -- is that.

But beyond that -- and perhaps for the people that only know him because of his ubiquitous Twitter handle or social media iconography -- in Decoding Deepak, I think they'll see that for all of the spiritual and scientific certainty that is his "brand," there's an underlying humanity to which it is underpinned, and a tenacious desire to evolve his own understanding of the mystery of our existence. There's also a fallibility and curiosity, a tenuous need to be accepted and to belong that's very familiar to you and me. Life is fragile and life is precious. It's not be taken for granted, nor to be taken too seriously, and at the end of it, hopefully we'll have made some sort of positive impact in the world. I think my dad has, and I'm happy for him.


Decoding Deepak opens Friday, October 5 in select theaters across the country and is available on demand. For more info on where to find it, please visit www.decodingdeepak.com.

 

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