Awake: The Life of Yogananda | Chicago Reader

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87 minutes · 2014

Documentary
Paramahansa Yogananda, the Indian guru who brought yoga to the West in the early 20th century, is the subject of this flattering documentary by Paola di Florio and Lisa Leeman. Yoga may be easily dismissed these days as the pastime of soccer moms and idle twentysomethings, but as Yogananda explained in his famous book Autobiography of a Yogi, the practice is rooted in medicine and physics. Moments from the guru's past, including his move to the U.S. in 1920, are awkwardly reenacted here, the scenes crudely converted from color to black and white; his theories and teachings are regurgitated in talking-head interviews with Deepak Chopra, Krishna Das, and other sympathizers. A voice-over narrator supplies some of Yogananda's more inspired passages—his comparison of life to the movement of projected celluloid is particularly stirring—but the affected tone makes it all sound rather silly.

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