One Track Heart2012
Director: Jeremy Frindel
Stars: Krishna Das, Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba
Release Company: Zeitgeist Films
MPAA Rating: NR
The 60s era (into the 70s) was a time for self discovery. It was nearly a cliche for my generation to cite such a quest to justify whatever they were doing--be it yoga, meditation, drugs, free love, dropping out, or taking extended road trips. Often an outward rejection of accepted American values, for many it was actually a typical youth rebellion before returning to the mainstream.
But not all. Jeffrey Kagel is one example who has remained in spiritual quest mode over the past four decades. Jeremy Frindel's documentary One Track Heart explores his journey. While the 72 minute film refrains from delving into the depths of the spiritual world, there is absolutely no questioning the sincerity of the filmmaker or its subject.
Kagel (better known as Krishna Das) could have been a rock star. A talented singer, he left his suburban lifestyle in 1970 and his teenage band that would soon become Blue Oyster Cult. He was seeking peace and true happiness and was convinced this could not be found in Long Island.
Inspired by the teachings of Ram Dass, Kagel decided to leave all worldly possessions behind and traipse off to the source of his teachings in the Himalayas--namely guru Neem Karoli Baba, more commonly known as Maharaji. Many Americans traveled to India to seek out Maharaji, but few lingered long. (I've seen a similar pattern recently--idealists seeking spiritual wisdom who soon become disillustioned after actually visiting chaotic India) Kagel was among the rare ones who remained for an extended time, remarkably picking up Hindi and invariably leading chanting session.
Through interviews and archive footage, a chronology of Krishna Das' life emerges. Like any journey, his life ebbs and flows--two decades dealing with depression and drug addiction following the death of his spiritual mentor before eventual healing, reconciliation, and acceptance of the role that Maharaji had assigned him.
A number of current Kirtan singing sessions are included (with harmonium and tabla drum). Here we see his self-deprecating humor and can feel his spontaneous energy and devotion ... as well as witness the audience become engaged in chanting, movement, dancing, and spiritual ecstasy. Frindel's film remains pretty raw without embellishment--very simple and down to earth. Just as Krishna Das is in real life. He strives to focus on the life of his mentor and connect with the creator through his singing gift.
This shows very directly in the documentary. As Krishna Das indicates, he refrains from attempting to explain via Hindu mysticism ... (in his words) that would be bullshit ... and he's just not into that.