Quite a different entry in the 16th IFFLA program, since “The Ashram” features mostly non-Indian actors and deals with the supernatural, at least more than it does with reality.

Following the trail of his missing ex-girlfriend, Jamie discovers a remote monastery in the mountains founded by a guru with allegedly miraculous powers. As Jamie tries to pry secrets from the guru’s devoted acolytes, which include the friendly Nitin and Gayatri, and the strict and mysterious Chandra, he also meets the guru and learns of a power that is hidden within him. At the same time, the secrets lurking in the monastery prove more dangerous than Jamie ever imagined.

Let us start from the obvious. Despite the basic premise that involves a guru and the fact that it takes place in a remote area in the Himalayas, “The Ashram” is actually a Hollywood film and not an Indian one, in cast, aesthetics, and general implementation. Obviously, this is not a bad thing, but Ben Rekhi seems to have fallen to one of Hollywood’s most common blights, the focus on impression rather than substance. In that fashion, the story combines two, rather common elements: the search of the missing girlfriend and the dangerous cult, while Rekhi also adds the element of reincarnation with a messianic approach.
The thriller elements are quite entertaining, but Rekhi seems to have taken some liberties in the narrative, particularly regarding Jamie’s relationship with some of the members of the cult, whose attitude towards him is inexplicable, even by the supernatural aspect that takes over eventually. On the other hand, the questions about the corruption of the “do-gooders” functions quite well in the film, benefitting the most from Melissa Leo’s performance as the chaotic good Chandra. Kal Penn as Nitin and Radhika Apte as Gayatri do their best, but their characters remain undeveloped, and that faults their overall performance. Sam Keeley as Jamie has his moments, but again, the script does not allow him to “shine.”
The aspect where the movie thrives is definitely Nikos Andritsakis’s cinematography, with him exploiting the gorgeous natural environment as much as possible, presenting a number of images of extreme beauty in the mountainous, filled with trees, environment.
“The Ashram” is not a bad movie; on the contrary, it can be quite entertaining at times, particularly regarding the setting of the natural environment and its depiction. However, in the end, it is one of those films you watch, pass your time nicely, and then completely forget.
My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute. In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with the almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.