Unless you’re a yoga or New Age music devotee, you may not be familiar with Krishna Das, despite his Grammy nomination and sold-out concert appearances. Jeremy Frindel’s documentary One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das seeks to rectify that situation, delivering a brief primer on the life and career of the chant master who’s been described as “yoga’s rock star.”
Das, like so many spiritual figures with mystical sounding names, had a fairly normal American upbringing. Born in suburban Long Island as Jeffrey Kagel, he nearly became the lead singer of the band that became Blue Oyster Cult before deciding to pursue less materialistic goals. Journeying to the Himalayas, he became a disciple of the Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, otherwise known as Maharaji, who gave him his new name.
Shortly after Krishna Das, or “KD” as he prefers to be called, returned to the United States and embarked on his successful career as a spiritual leader and performer, the Maharajii died, sending his pupil into a spiral of depression and drug addiction that included freebasing cocaine. He discusses these events frankly in the film’s extended interview segments in a plain-speaking, profanity-laced manner that emphasizes his everyman qualities.
Among the other talking heads on display are spiritual teacher Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert), music producer Rick Rubin and best-selling authors Sharon Salzberg and Daniel Goleman, all of whom effusively praise Krishna Das and testify about his prominence in his rather rarified field. “He’s the spiritual bard of our time, ” one of them enthuses. Also included are generous concert segments in which the adoration of Krishna Das’ audiences is clearly palpable.
Despite the performer’s engaging charisma, One Track Heart ultimately lacks the contextual depth to make it more than mildly interesting. Feeling attenuated even at its brief 72-minute running time, it more closely resembles a concert DVD extra than the fully-fleshed biographical study that its subject would seem to warrant.
Opens May 8 (Zeitgeist Films)
Director/screenwriter/director of photography/editor: Jeremy Frindel
Producer: Mike Harrop
Executive producer: Andrew Jones
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