“Time doesn’t exist, but somehow we are stuck in it.”
A sentence which summed up how I felt while watching the 1 hour and 53-minute long interview of “Sadhguru” Jaggi Vasudev by actress Kangana Ranaut. An interview which was promoted by “Sadhguru’s” YouTube channel as “India’s Youth Icon Meets the Epitome of Truth! Kangana Ranaut with Sadhguru”. I’m not quite sure he’s the epitome of truth, but I’ll quibble over these minor details later. First to the interview that felt like a full-frontal lobotomy.
The Kangana-plays-interviewer episode is one of many interviews of Jaggi Vasudev, with earlier interviews being conducted by Anupam Kher, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Prasoon Joshi, Karan Johar and other stars. All under the banner of “In Conversation With The Mystic”. The Kangana one, though, was all sorts of surreal. Dressed as Gayatri Devi, Kangana spent the first 1.29 minutes of the interview accusing Karan Johar of plagiarism and of attacking Jaggi Vasudev, without naming Johar. This was the most normal thing that Kangana said for the rest of the conversation. Listening to the interview were Prasoon Joshi, Juhi Chawla and Anuradha Paudwal – of the ones I spotted.
Now, I’m no fan of Jaggi Vasudev or any godman or life coach. And aside from Jaggi’s comments on depression not existing and that people should meditate to cure it, his alleged flouting of environmental rules and laws is difficult to ignore.
The Isha Foundation has multiple cases pending against it for constructing buildings in violation of government rules. The construction will affect the flora and fauna of the area and “also pollute the Noyyal river which will have a cascading effect in the entire western region of Tamil Nadu”. Construction work by the Isha Foundation has also adversely affected the “elephant corridor” in the western region of the state and this has led to elephants frequently straying into local villages. Not to forget that his wife Vijji died under mysterious circumstances and her father had suspected foul play in the matter. Unsurprisingly, there is no digital footprint of the news reports on the investigation, other than some news report images from the time.
Setting aside all these facts, I honestly had pretty decent expectations of this conversation because I thought Kangana seemed like the sort of person who would do her homework before placing herself in front of the camera. The problem, though, lay in the fact that she seemed to be trying to string together thoughts on matters beyond Bollywood and her persecution by others. Sweeping statements, multiple disjointed trains of thought slamming into each other and baseless comments were what was on display.
In all fairness, Jaggi Vasudev did make some practical and logical statements. Kangana’s views, in contrast, were gobbledygook — especially on cows, nationalism and liberals.
For example, once she’d finished trashing Johar, she said that she only took Jaggi Vasudev seriously once his book made it to The New York Times bestseller list. She asked why it is that “unless Americans don’t approve of” something, we don’t take it seriously? I didn’t realise that she had become the benchmark for how the rest of India thought. But hey, in the world of celebrities, different rules of reality apply. Jaggi Vasudev responded by trashing all Democrats and said they were jackasses. A brilliant start to the interview. Kangana is asking a question, he’s giving a totally unrelated answer.
But it only got better by the minute. Twenty-five minutes to be precise. Which is when Kangana reminded us why actors need dialogue writers.
I quote verbatim. “This whole dichotomy of what is happening in today’s world. Where we are individuals, but we need to be organised as well. What we face on daily basis is something completely different. For me, it’s very conflicting. I’m working on a martyr’s biopic where there is a scene that my protagonist, Laxmibai, goes and saves a calf. And the crew stopped the shoot and had a big discussion where we said that she can’t save a cow, she has to save a lamb. Because we don’t want to look like cow-savers. My point is that when such a prejudice strikes, as a person you feel very protective of your values. And you want to save all the animals, why just the cow. But you want to save the cow. Because the prejudice is really agonising. But a lynching for cow takes place and you look like an idiot. And then you jump to the other side, which has been always criticising and never wanting to protect cows, and you’re like these people look sensible and these are so-called liberals. And liberals by definition…are people who are accepting…these liberals will not take you in their group unless you hate the same people as they do. If it is for the betterment of the country, you don’t mind hating on BJP. You don’t mind believing that literally everything Amit Shah is practically doing. But what I don’t get is, what is their agenda and plan of action for bringing this this country out of the pit. What is it that they’re doing?”
She also added that liberals were “demotivating army men. A rape takes place in Kashmir and they say Hindustan raped our daughter…And trying to break a civil war? Is this what liberal do…The most sensible thing to be is a sceptic. But a sceptic is nothing but a space cadet. We cannot be stuck in the unfortunate loop of ‘to be or not to be’”.
It’s okay, even I don’t know what she meant. I don’t think she does, either.
To which Jaggi said, matching her blather with his own, that Londoners, “always thought that asking this question – to be or not to be – is the most intelligent thing to do…People who are liberals are actually fanatics. If you don’t agree with them, they’ll finish you in some way”.
First of all, I think Kangana and her film crew need to stop smoking whatever they are and start eating some healthy food which will help grow brain cells. What kind of idiotic director, producer and actor discusses whether to save a calf in a fiction film or replace it with a lamb? And why should anyone not want to be seen as a cow saviour? None of this makes any sense.
Jaggi Vasudev did make a sensible statement, that while people might want to protect their livestock, “unfortunately it is going into a place where people are being killed on the street. It should not go there. Law enforcement needs to come. And law enforcement has not reached the entire geography of the nation. We need to do that.” While he did not condone the killing, there was a rider that preceded this statement: “This is not about cows…whatever is precious to them, if they believe somebody is taking it, they can’t call the police…because if they call the police, they will come after 24 hours and if they come there are so many issues…it doesn’t directly get settled…people have their own way of settling…” In essence, Jaggi here is trying to obfuscate the tacit approval of the state in cow-related lynchings– whether it is a Union Minister garlanding the accused or an MLA normalising lynchings. Not only that, he also displays remarkable ignorance considering the disturbing role of the police in some cases like the recent one in Alwar.
There were other gems from Kangana as well:
“Only nationalism ties us together.”
“Yoga is the ultimate union. Everything we do as yoga, is supposed to make us inclusive of our environment, our country men, the planet and the cosmos.”
She also said that while she was with her friends in London, they were cursing India and she then went back to her room and cried.
By which time I felt like bursting into tears.
What stunned me though was when both of them spoke of his wife’s “mahasamidhi” with no mention of her father’s allegations, who stated that Jaggi Vasudev had cremated his wife’s body before anyone could get to it. Jaggi also described his wife in this interview, as someone with violent mood swings, almost describing someone with Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression. Maybe instead of spirituality, she needed psychological help. But then again, this is a man who has claimed that no such thing as depression exists. All you have to do is meditate and you’ll be fine.
This is not the first time Jaggi Vasudev has explained away his wife’s death. In another interview with Anupam Kher, Jaggi said that his wife reached such an exuberant state that her life left her body. And that it can happen to any of us, and the only thing keeping our exuberant free spirits within our body is the jewellery we are wearing. According to him, his absolutely healthy wife went and removed all her jewellery and came and sat down next to him and his congregation and died within five minutes – with a massive smile plastered on her face.
I’ve heard a lot of tripe in my life, but this takes the cake. Although I must say, going by how delirious I feel after watching this interview, I’m writing this article while covered in gold jewellery from head to toe. I don’t want to attain mahasamidhi before filing this article, after all.
Not once though, either while speaking to Kangana or Anupam Kher did Jaggi mention that his wife’s father filed a police complaint of murder against him. A piddly detail to mention.
You can hear his explanation of her death here.
That this was torture, would be an understatement. Between the lack of logic, unending disjointed conversation and the explaining away of the perplexing death of a healthy woman, the two-hour duration did not make the experience any easier. But after hearing Jaggi Vasudev speak for two hours, you do realise why his wife might have opted for mahasamiddhi. And with Kangana Ranaut’s stream-of-bullshit-thought questioning, even I’m starting to feel the need to leave my body so that I can never return to watch a conversation with the actress or the mystic again.
You can watch the entire interview here: