In Decoding Deepak, a son chronicles his father's private and public lives

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 protégées 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: He 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.


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