Deepak Chopra, possibly the world’s most famous guru, says, “When your soul responds to the paradox of our existence, to the contradictions of our existence, to the fact that wherever there is joy there is suffering, when your soul recognizes this, it can do nothing except laugh.”
In other words, chuckle — it’s good for your soul.
These are words to live by, particularly if you are Eddie Murphy in A Thousand Words, opening this weekend. In this comedy, Murphy plays a shady literary agent who cheats a spiritual guru in a business deal.
His punishment teaches him the value of every word that comes out of his mouth.
A Thousand Words isn’t the first comedy to go gaga for gurus.
In the 1968 counter-culture hit I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!, Peter Sellers plays a 30-something who visits a maharishi for enlightenment. “You will know yourself when you stop trying,” he is told. “I’m trying to stop trying,” Sellers replies.
A year later came The Guru, a movie that echoed the real-life musical journey of Beatle George Harrison’s internship with Ravi Shankar. Michael York starred as a famous British rock ‘n’ roller who travels from London to Bombay to study sitar at the feet of guru Ustad Zafar Khan.
Director James Ivory (who along with producer Ismail Merchant would go on to make Howard’s End and The Remains of the Day) called The Guru “the most unseen and mysterious of our movies … Merchant Ivory’s version of a ‘60s trip.”
Sharing a title is the 2002 Jimi Mistry film about a young Indian man who moves to New York with dreams of becoming an actor but instead becomes a sex guru who doles out catchphrases such as, “the most powerful sexual organ is your brain.”
In The Love Guru, Mike Myers mixed gross-out humour with spiritualism, a combo that proved toxic for both audiences and critics.
Even Mike’s own guru agreed it flopped.
“Humour mixed with spirituality can work, if it’s done well,” Deepak Chopra, who has a cameo in the film, said. “But frankly speaking, this was not a good attempt.”
So what exactly do gurus and comedy have in common? Myers says he learned from Chopra that “ha ha” is related to “ah ha,” the sound one makes upon the realization of truth.” Maybe it’s that simple.