Random Post: I Am Addicted to Documentaries About Cults (one of them is Hindi Film Related and It’s Not the One You Think!)

For the past month or so, I have been obsessed with documentaries about cults and I think I finally figured out why. Like I said, random post.

First, the documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is fascinating and has a little bit of a relationship to Hindi film, especially American Hindi film fans. It’s your standard cult story, charismatic conman reinvents himself and convinces folks to believe and follow him, then once you are seduced into believing in his goodness, rapes people.

But here’s the thing! He used to make people watch Hindi movies with him before he raped them! Okay, that’s not great or anything, I just find it kind of funny in a very black comedy way. Here’s this dude that is supposed to be all spiritual and wise and at a higher plane, and he’s got cheesy 1970s movies blaring on his TV and making bored white folks watch them with him. And he didn’t even have subtitles! That’s the real evil, making them watch these movies without subtitles. EVIL! Well, and also the rapes. I joke, but really the rapes are the horrible thing. And in a weird way, the movies were part of the grooming. If you didn’t blink at this “higher plane” guy watching these cheesy movies, or complain about having no subtitles, it was one more step in the brainwashing.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (2019) - IMDb

What the documentary does really really well is what that entire many many hours long documentary on Osho kind of failed to do, tie together American and Indian side of the story, and show the culpability of the American media and the hidden prejudices of the American public that allowed this kind of abuse to thrive. This guy shows up in Beverly Hills in the 1970s and announces he is a “yoga champion” from India who has invented “new yoga”. And the talk shows loved him, and the celebrities loved him, and they just ate up all the stuff he fed them. Plus there was this very intriguing mix of the eastern spirituality with western consumption and sexual jokes and so on. It felt like “hey, here’s this magical guru, who is also just like us!” And then the documentary actually WENT TO INDIA and talked to Indian journalists and yoga folks who said “oh yeah, this was totally a can. Blatantly obviously a con. There is no yoga competition, this dude was a body builder and street performer who fell in with a yoga teacher, ripped off his teachers, flew to America and presented them as his own.” That’s the thing! Whether it is Lauren Gottlieb coming America to India, or Priyanka coming India to America, you feel “exotic” in either place and you can reinvent yourself, and if you want you can really abuse people by spinning out lies.

Anyway, that’s the documentary to watch if you are going to watch one of them. But in general, you know what I realized from watching all these cult documentaries? I like them because they remind me how good my life is, how good “normal” life is.

All of these documentaries include interviews with survivors. And the overall statement you get from all of them is that life, regular every day life, is amazingly wonderful. It’s a very specific kind of affirmation. Cults are tempting because it is love and answers and simplicity and all the hard parts of just living life go away. You don’t have to be lonely, you don’t have to make decisions, you never have to be afraid again. But here are all of these people who had that life, who gave up decisions and freedom and committed to love and joy forever, and they are just SO HAPPY to be done with that! The world, the real world we already live in, is heaven already. Doing what you want, going where you want, eating what you want, that is heaven. Responsibility is freedom, and freedom is responsibility.

I don’t really have anything else to go from here. Say whatever you like in the comments! What are your favorite cult documentaries? Or the cults you find most interesting? Is there some similar weird interest you have that you find strangely soothing?

Oh, also, do you think the reason Katrina is so strangely peaceful is because she is a cult survivor herself and has that sense of “real life is heaven already”?

15 thoughts on “Random Post: I Am Addicted to Documentaries About Cults (one of them is Hindi Film Related and It’s Not the One You Think!)

  1. I saw this documentary some time ago. I don’t remember much, but there was an irritating guy who was angry with one of the survivors ( it was his girlfriend if I remember well) for coming out. He cried and whinged like a baby because his feelings were hurt. There are women who were abused and raped and they don’t cry, and he was like: omg I’m the biggest victim of all this. And of course he wasn’t angry with Bikram, but with the women who exposed him. What a loser.

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    • Oh oh! There was one who was even worse! There was an older woman who said the yoga is so awesome and life changing that she will continue teaching and spreading it forever. Not that she thought the woman were lying or anything, she just didn’t even acknowledge it, was all about “this yoga is life changing and I will spread the word about it forever!” And the yoga is FAKE! The whole thing is fake! But she can’t acknowledge any of it, it’s easier for her to just cling to her beliefs.

      On Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 8:08 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. The idea that being a cult survivor brings an extra sort of peace is interesting. And Katrina does have an unusual sort of stillness to her.

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    • Stillness, and maturity crossed with immaturity. Not so much now, but when I looked back and read her earlier interviews, it was this cross of very honest calm statements and also talking about how happy she was to feel free and make friends and so on now, at age 20, for the first time.

      On Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 8:13 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I can relate to the idea of Katrina as a survivor (no matter if of a cult or other traumata)…my guts always reacted positively to her. I even liked her way to be cautious about ShahRukh and then give her trust to him.
      Contrary to many I had no problems with her in JabTakHaiJaan, neither with her role nor with her acting, and certainly not with a guy like Samar to stick to his love despite the hurt he felt.

      As for the topic (cult), I did not watch any documentary but I read about different cults (including testimonies) and its like with everything somebody imposes on other people (for personal interest or gain) – any abusing manipulation is a no-go for me.

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  3. Well, I’m one of the few people with whom it might work to show them cheesy 70s Bollywood movies to make them have sex with you. In fact, I’ve absolutely made dates watch cheesy 70s Bollywood movies before. Never without subtitles though, that is UNACCEPTABLE.

    I’m superstitious about cults so try to stay away from stuff about real cults, because I feel like even though I am the opposite of the kind of person they victimise, everyone is susceptible to cult stuff if the cult is right. But it makes for good fiction media, I love a 60s or 70s Mansonsploitation movie.

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    • YES! It’s the subtitles that got me! That right there would tell me “well, he’s a sociopath who doesn’t care about others”.

      I have no superstition about cults, but I do sometimes with drug stories or spousal abuse stories. In the same way, like “I’ve never experienced this and it really doesn’t seem like something that would ever happen to me, but somehow it spooks me”. But cults, I could watch stuff about them for days and days!

      On Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 9:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. The more I think about it after learning that Katrina may have grown up in a cult–an active and virulent one, too–is perhaps why she is so incredibly peaceful as well as so silent on the topic. I think that she doesn’t talk about it for 2 reasons: 1) Obviously it might be a very painful subject and 2) she doesn’t want to give the cult any airtime whatsoever and the only way to do that is to stay silent on the topic. The media can’t go interview someone and spread the cult ideology that way if she doesn’t say anything at all. I think it’s also why she is so resolute about her private life being her private life.

    Also I’m watching Singin’ in the Rain this morning and I have more silly remake ideas for you (when do I not):

    SRK as RF (go with me here!)
    Juhi Chawla as the director
    Ranveer Singh as Donald
    Vicky Kaushal as Cosmo (give me a better Cosmo, I bow to your superior knowledge)
    Tripti Dimri as Kathy
    Priyanka Chopra as Lena

    Or different people if you have alternate ideas!!

    It could be a straight remake of the original film or we could update it to be a movie that’s set now surrounding making a move that’s set in the 10s or 20s* that is trying to recreate some of the old techniques which is why they’re running into some of the problems that the original film does–this time it isn’t new tech that no one knows how to work, it’s old tech that no one remembers how to use.

    *Chosen because the French Revolution was only 120-140 years before the setting of the original movie, and the 1910s or 20s are nearly a similar amount of time ago now.

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    • I would add that Kat is also probably trying to protect her family, the people who might still be involved, and the people who had to do messy things to get out.

      Yaaaaay, Singin’ in the Rain! Love that movie. And I ADORE SRK as RF, the only better option might be Karan. Similarly, swap out Juhi for Farah as director, just for fun. I like Ranveer as Don, perfect energy. Cosmo….I might even say Rajkummar? He can do really goofy comedy when he wants? But that doesn’t feel quite perfect either. Tripti as Kathy is good, but I like Sanya Malhotra better I think. Cute, short, young, can dance. And PC and Lena is GENIUS!!!!

      I like your idea of trying to recreate old tech. I think there is something there about sticking with the dance idea. Have it be that Ranveer and Rajkummar (or whoever) started as back-up dancers but for the past 10 years Hindi films have been moving farther and farther away from dancing. They struggle with this period film, until they have the brilliant idea to throw in a bunch of old school big BIG dance numbers. With Sanya as the body double for PC using CGI.

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      • Isn’t Rajkummar the parallel actor who is secretly an excellent dancer? If so, I am fully on board with him as Cosmo. You could also do Sai Pallavi as Kathy for that “new to town” kind of vibe, plus dance ability.

        Who are the celebrity guests at the big opening, and who is the emcee? Or do we skip that part because it was already done perfectly in Om Shanti Om?

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        • I think we skip that party, maybe do something clever with social media instead? Fake isntagram posts or something?

          On Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 12:09 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I’m still attached to watching SRK flail around as RF trying to herd cats, but Karan makes a great substitute and I LOVE the idea of making Farah be the director!

        I agree with Rajkummar, he would play really well opposite of Ranveer I think, and Sanya works for me too — she just does.

        XD I felt a little bad making PC be Lena but…I had to!! I’m glad you like that choice ❤

        Your idea about having to have Sanya be a body double for PC with CGI would be GREAT. Like, they film the big numbers and then have to film Sanya and paint her over PC, which is going to work great until somehow PC catches wise and freaks out.

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