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Netflix just released a documentary film called Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, following the rise and ... not quite fall, but sexual misconduct allegations against Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury. Bikram confirmed through a rep that he watched the documentary, and he's not a fan -- and yet, he's also promoting it? More on that below.
The Netflix documentary shared perspectives from multiple women who accused Bikram Choudhury of sexual assault and other forms of harassment. Bikram fled the USA after his former attorney Micki Jafa-Bodden won a discrimination and harassment lawsuit against him and a jury awarded her $7 million. He hasn't paid any of that. But he has been busy finding new followers in places like Mexico and Spain, and he has "Bikram’s Legacy Tour of India 2020" coming up in January and February.
Still, Bikram Choudhury reportedly made time to watch Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator. Publicist Richard Hillgrove, who was retained to represent Bikram, told the L.A. Times that his client had indeed watched the Netflix film. Here's how Hillgrove shared Bikram's feelings on it:
Bikram Choudhury totally refutes all the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment presented in the film and is deeply upset by the continued character assassination. Bikram believes that the concerted effort by money-motivated lawyers to proactively send letters to a database of all his clients, offering people free legal representation and the promise of $1 million insurance policy pay-outs is the primary motivation for this reputational catastrophe. Bikram believes the Netflix film is nothing more than a repetition of old material.
And yet, later in the L.A. Times piece, publicist Richard Hillgrove is quoted again, suggesting Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is only helping to promote Bikram's yoga:
Bikram yoga is certainly going through a renaissance worldwide. The attention created by the much talked about Netflix documentary, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, has had the opposite effect that many people expected. Droves and droves of people are wanting to experience Bikram Hot Yoga. Despite the somewhat unfair and negative sentiment, Netflix has certainly helped to create a Bikram comeback.
Interesting. In an Esquire report, it was reported that Bikram Choudhury's spokesperson said Bikram had sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings saying, "I strongly urge you to consider immediately withdrawing the Netflix smear documentary."
Bikram Choudhury filed for bankruptcy in 2017, according to the Telegraph, having amassed $16 million in debt after years of sexual harassment lawsuits. As Esquire noted, the yogi has "Bikram’s Legacy Tour of India 2020" taking place over seven cities over 15 days in January and February, with a cost of up to $3,950 per person. Mary Shea, an attorney representing several people who filed rape and other abuse allegations against Choudhury, told Esquire it's "deeply disturbing" that people still attend Bikram Choudhury’s teacher training sessions and personal appearances:
One might argue that to support his brand ‘Bikram Yoga’ is to support the abuse. You can not separate the man from the yoga.
At the Toronto Film Festival in September (via New York Post), Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator documentary director Eva Orner told a screening audience that six more women reached out to her to say they too were abused. She told the L.A. Times she thought it was unlikely Bikram Choudhury would be extradited back to the USA, but she's hoping the film will still make his life a little bit more uncomfortable:
I think the film will have an effect on his life because it will be seen by a lot of people, and that gives me some solace.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is now streaming on Netflix, as one of the many originals premiering in 2019. There are more great movies coming to Netflix in December. Or you can check out the many fascinating Netflix docuseries going even more in-depth on real-life topics. Keep up with everything still headed to the big screen this year with our 2019 movie release date schedule.