December 5, 2013


Vikram Gandhi, 2011
Vikram Gandhi is a filmmaker who wants to study Americans' obsession with the concept of a Guru. As an experiment he attempts to impersonate a yoga guru hoping to generate some humor. What he ends up getting is something he did not expect; real followers. Loyal, committed followers. He's suddenly faced with the challenge of being honest with these people who suddenly look up to him for spiritual leadership. Can he come clean?

Kumare is the kind of documentary that sneaks up on you. Vikram Gandhi is quite honest about his intentions. He wants to out the false prophets of the world with a well-crafted social experiment. Snake oil salesmen. Smoke in mirrors. And he does this. But he gets more than he bargained for. When you start to hear the stories of the people that begin following him, your heart aches. These are real people. These are people with real issues, who struggle with real issues. People who have a certain pain that makes them particularly vulnerable. The fascinating thing is that they all have different flavors of vulnerability. But it's all very authentic. There's certainly a message here. People are insecure. People are desperate for guidance. Sometimes it's as simple as companionship. Sometimes it's validation. And because of that desperation, there is a certain accessibility that forms.

The cleverly constructed doc defies you to hold back the tears when you see the pictures on the wall of the family members who have moved away from their mother. When you hear about past drug abuse, and a new-found sense of purity. Broken promises to oneself, and the intention to finally fulfill them. Kumare accidentally becomes a real guru to them, a pseudo-father figure. The joke gets lost in the humanity. Without the humanity, the film would be a cheap laugh in the same vein as Borat. Without the humanity, the film would come off as deviously predatory as Punk'd. But that's the thing. The humanity is there. On both sides. Kumare's placebo effect has a lasting impact. The emotions are laid right out there. Brace yourself for the reveal.

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