Guru, the Movie: See It!

“The opening scene alone is worth the $15 for the DVD.”

That was a friend’s comment and I definitely agree.

After reading Lori’s review, as a practitioner of Ashtanga and as a fan of documentaries and independent cinema, I was definitely not going to miss the showing of Guru, a new documentary about Sri K. Pattabhis Jois, at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre.

Warm, human and highly informational, this movie, to me, really encapsulates the attraction of Ashtanga yoga for so many of us. I was so amped after seeing it that I decided to practice at the rest of the World Tour days even though my practice is completely lousy right now.

Guru features lots of footage of people practicing in the AYRI shala, street scenes of Mysore, Pattabhis Jois’ 90th birthday celebration, and interviews with advanced students and with the guru himself, of course.

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around 150 people attended the SF screening of Guru

The best part for me was learning more about Guruji – hearing his thoughts about Ashtanga and what it means to him to be a teacher, along with Sharath, Saraswati and Manju’s thoughts and those of some senior practitioners. I learned a lot about Ashtanga and its history in the West, too.

Other favorite bits were:

  • Hearing Saraswati and Manju speak about growing up with Pattabhis Jois as a father
  • Seeing all levels of Ashtangis practicing in the shala. I think it’s nice to see really advanced Ashtangis pratice, but seeing mere humans do it is more interesting to me
  • Seeing scenes of Mysore and its citizens. I didn’t know that 1,000,000 people live there. I think it’s nice to be reminded of the actual community of non-Ashtangis who live around AYRI.

And, finally, I was happy to see Philippe — one of my favorite Ashtanga teachers — so psyched to see some of his teachers in the movie.

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the audience – with Julie of ashtangi.net on the left

Robert Wilkins, the filmmaker and an Ashtangi for only 2 years, is a professional, experienced filmmaker and it shows in the quality and breadth of the story. He is also a warm, compassionate person and this also is reflected in his film.

For those of you in New York, Guru will screen there on March 26. Robert Wilkins will be there, and hopefully, will speak before the showing as he did here.

The 30-minute documentary, however, is not only for Ashtangis. It’s something anyone curious about other cultures, and about the teacher-student relationship would find worthwhile.

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Robert and yours truly

I also think Guru would be great to share with friends and family who wonder exactly what it is you Ashtangis do and why you’d expend so much effort to follow a 90-year old man in India.

I should mention that the DVD has “extras”, including an interview with Sri K. Pattabhis Jois conducted in Kannada (with subtitles) where he speaks in much more detail about Ashtanga. Pattabhis Jois was much more serious in this interview than he is in English-language parts of the film. He is asked tough questions about his status as a Guru, and he emphasizes that he does not call himself Guru, his students do.

I am really looking forward to watching the coconut stand bit when I get my copy of the DVD.

I recommend buying this video. The DVD is available at the Guru, the Movie site for US$20 plus p&p and Ashtanga.com has the US version.

2 Comments »

  1. Todd Glatfelter said,

    March 21, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Well-said Tracy, and thanks for the overview. It’s such a treat to connect with this great community outside of practice space. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why we do this crazy practice and thanks to Robert’s insights a filmmaker we can see the seed for which we came on the big screen. It’s such an honor to be part of such a fabulous tradition, and I’ll be in San Fran on Wednesday thru Friday to practice with all you great folks.

  2. AshtangaNews » Guru, the Movie: Reviewed said,

    March 24, 2006 at 11:23 am

    [...] [For another perspective on Guru, see Tracy’s review from the San Francisco showing. Guru will also screen in New York on March 26, 2006. -Ed.] [...]

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