Last year, Netflix proved our cultural obsession with cults is far from over with “Wild Wild Country,” the hit docu-series about Rajneeshpuram cult leader Bhagwan Rajneesh and his followers. In the years since its massive international popularity has grown, yoga has attracted millions of devotees as fervent as any cult followers. But none as cult-like as Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, founded and popularized by Bikram Choudhury. A new Netflix documentary titled “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” tells the story of the cult-like figure, who abused his position to rape, assault, and harass multiple women in his ranks. The newly released trailer showcases countless interviews with his followers and victims, often blurring the line between them.
“He sees himself as a cross between Mother Teresa and Howard Stern,” one male interview subject says in the trailer. Another woman recalls, “I’d see flashes of megalomania, but I didn’t know how diabolical he actually was.” The rest of the trailer is full of explosive interviews with women who remain supportive of Choudhury, as well as difficult to stomach archival footage of Choudhury literally standing on top of multiple women in supine yoga poses.
In his positive review of the film out of its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn praised the film’s urgent political message while acknowledging its filmmaking was underwhelming. “It doesn’t bring much new information to the table, but it’s an infuriating look at the way Choudhury 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. Choudhury belongs in jail, and this frustrating overview provides the latest opportunity to keep that conversation in the public eye.”
“Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” was directed by Eva Orner, an Australian filmmaker and producer who won an Academy Award in 2008 as a producer on Alex Gibney’s torture documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side.” This is the fourth feature documentary she has directed, and it follows “The Network,” “Chasing Asylum,” and “Out of Iraq.”
Netflix will release “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” for streaming on November 20. Check out the compelling trailer below.