Review: One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das

The overall product doesn’t reveal anything about its subject that a Wikipedia page couldn’t do just as well.

One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das
Photo: Zeitgeist Films

Jeremy Frindel’s modestly constructed One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das is a portrait of Jeffrey Kagel (a.k.a. Krishna Das), a Grammy-nominated vocalist who specializes in Indian devotional music known as kitan. An aspiring rock star in the 1970s, Kagel turned down an offer to be the lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult in order to visit the foothills of the Himalayas to seek solace in Neem Karoli Baba, the Indian guru known as the Maharaj-ji. Essentially a glorified fan letter, the film provides a comprehensive overview of Kagel’s life and career, but the overall product doesn’t reveal anything about its subject that a Wikipedia page couldn’t do just as well.

As one of the most successful new age musicians in the United States, Kagel draws relatively large crowds in venues that range from midsize rock clubs to outdoor festivals to small concert halls. His audiences are diverse and jubilant, and they literally hang on his every word, reciting them right along with him. His performances are filled with conviction, and the doc is at its strongest in conveying how his spirit is reflected in the euphoria of his fans. Frindel captures some genuinely transcendent moments, such as Kagel and his audience simultaneously being driven to tears amid the sweeping rhythms of the man’s music, but they’re few and far between.

The majority of One Track Heart is dedicated to a series of talking-head interviews that help drive home the same repetitive points about Kagel, his path to enlightenment, and his stature in the world-music community. In spite of this, there are some worthwhile interview subjects, among them spiritual teacher Ram Dass, formerly known as Richard Alpert, the Harvard psychology professor noted for his early experimentation with LSD; legendary music producer Rick Rubin; and two-time Pulitzer-winning science journalist Daniel Goleman. Each of them provides useful insights about Kagel and spiritualism as a whole, but they essentially regurgitate the same information, stories, and opinions. Unfortunately, the film’s pithy runtime and disorganized structure don’t allow for much elaboration or further investigation of the subject. Frindel succeeds in depicting how lots of people think Kagel is a really cool guy, but that’s about it.

 Cast: Krishna Das, Ram Dass, Dan Goleman, Rick Rubin  Director: Jeremy Frindel  Distributor: Zeitgeist Films  Running Time: 72 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2012  Buy: Video

Drew Hunt

Drew Hunt used to be an editorial assistant at the Chicago Reader. Now he's a strategy manager at Capitol Records.

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