The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If miffed Madonna won’t, J.Lo may join yoga gala

Madonna is miffed for not being given the kind of personal care Jyoti Basu once was. So, Calcutta might have to give the Material Girl a miss and settle for Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears this winter. That’s if the world’s most marketed yogi can pull it off. Beverly Hills-based Bikram Choudhury’s weeklong yoga ‘expo’ is scheduled to see fleets from Hollywood, Bollywood and Tollywood across the city, along with two Sumo wrestlers and a few Mr Universes.

The icing on the November cake would, of course, be one of the pop princesses, ‘Jenny from the block’ Lopez or ‘Not Yet a Woman’ Britney or maybe Madonna, if she cools down. “Madonna is still angry at me because I refused to give her a personal consult,” said the yoga guru, in his south Calcutta home this weekend. “The problem is, if I see one person privately, I would have to see them all.” Choudhury once made an exception for Jyotibabu, landing up at his Indira Bhavan residence in Salt Lake to demonstrate the “26-posture-and-two-breathing-exercise” regimen to suggest a remedy for the former Bengal chief minister’s spinal problem several years ago.

Madonna, however, must take heart from the fact that the 50-something “active Democrat” with “around 740” yoga schools teaching ‘Bikram’s Yoga’ around the world, even sent President Bill Clinton “a book and cassette” in response to a request for a private session at the White House.

Netaji Indoor Stadium will be better off than White House this winter, with Choudhury, commemorating guruji Bishnu Ghosh’s 100th birthday, planning a gala cross-city event of stars, students and salesmen of yoga. And it’s all backed by “old friend” Subrata Roy of Sahara, in whose Amby Valley and health-related plans he is also “deeply involved”. If the Madonnas or the J. Los hop along, the venue for the finale will be Salt Lake stadium.

Everyone from politicians (President Richard Nixon was “cured of a chronic leg problem in 11 days”) to actors (Shirley Maclaine is his dearest student, best friend and guide to management; producers (Quincy Jones) to sports personalities (John McEnroe) line up in Bikram’s Los Angeles sweatshop. And it is just that. The room he teaches in is heated to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. His students wear swimsuits, leotards, or anything that leaves limbs bare. The Calcutta-born no longer spots the famous faces amidst the everyday folk. Ashley Judd escaped his notice till his wife pointed her out as the woman they had seen on screen the week before. “These people are so pretty in the movies and so ugly in class!” he exclaims. But he wasn’t always so untouched. Maclaine, the Kennedys and the Shrivers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evert and Brooke Shields are the names he remembers. “I don’t know any of the new stars. They know me,” laughs the lean man.

Choudhury, who is trying to get franchising rights, reports the opening of two new schools of his trademarked format a day. He has a third book and a music album scheduled for release. He is in talks with Nike, Guess, Speedo and Federated about brand-ambassador status. And his oldest dream is near realisation. “We are opening the first ever yoga university,” explains Choudhury, who has received funds from the US government to research chronic conditions like cardiac ailments and spinal problems.

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