Kumare is by far one of the best documentaries on spirituality ever made. Blurring the line between simple observance and actual manipulation, the film becomes an honest look inside the world of spiritual healing. Of course, in order to get that truly honest perspective a great lie had to be told.
Many will compare the film to Borat or one of the other Sacha Baron Cohen films and while the concept may be the same, the results have a far deeper impact. The film follows Vikram Gandhi, an American-born Indian who has struggled with religion and spirituality all of his life. After spending time in India and studying the religions throughout college he has found himself still searching for answers. This leads to a social experiment and the heart of the movie.
After undergoing a few cosmetic changes and altering his voice to sound more stereotypically Indian, Gandhi transforms himself into the wise guru Kumare. Setting himself up in Phoenix and bringing in a few friends to spread the word about his fictional teachings he quickly creates a following. People come up to him in the street and simply open up to him because they believe he is a wise and spiritual leader even though he has made no such claim. Such is the power of illusion.
In a matter of weeks, he has a core group of followers hanging on to his every word. Watching Gandhi as Kumare is fascinating on many levels. There is no denying that this truly is a gigantic ruse to get at the core of what it means to be spiritual and what drives people toward gurus. The only problem is that over time Ghandi finds himself doing some real good as Kumare and the lines begin to blur between nonsense and truth.
Gandhi uses Kumare as a means of letting down people’s defenses and trying to understand why people need a religious leader in the first place. Throughout the movie he visits other gurus both in America and India to determine what makes one a genuine spiritual leader. While many seem to be crackpots, there are occasional moments of genius that create a gray area for both Gandhi and the audience.
Rather than simply continue his nonsense teachings, he instead finds himself constantly changing his theories with the addition of new information from both his fellow followers and other gurus he encounters. What he finds along the way has real value and should not be discounted simply because he has taken on an alter ego in order to find it.
The film itself is full of layers and demands multiple viewings in order to be fully appreciated. Unlike Borat or other films in this genre, Gandhi finally does reveal himself in one of the most compelling moments of the movie. What happens next is revealing of not only the journey he and his followers have gone on together but the lessons they have learned along the way.
Although Gandhi is still very early into his filmmaking career, if he continues to push the envelope, he has the potential to be a truly great documentarian and someone that could make a real impact on society.
Watch the trailer here.