11 December 2013

Movie Review: Kumare

Okay so this is not a gay movie. At all. But since I do occasionally delve into book reviews that have really no connection to LGBT studies and are almost exclusively about spirituality, I thought I'd review this documentary, Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet.

Vikram Gandhi, a child of Indian immigrants to the United States, decided to do a documentary about the yoga craze in the United States and critique the "gurus" as sophists. His position was similar to that of Marx's in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

Guru Kumare
His trip to India to further explore this somehow gave him the idea to transform himself into a guru and do an experiment with unsuspecting Americans -- all the while videotaping everything. But as he develops a following of true believers, he cannot escape the interpersonal emotional bonds he has developed with these people nor can he ignore the responsibility that comes with being a guru -- because he isn't a guru.

Vikram Gandhi growing sadhu-beard

A number of critics felt his documentary was nothing more than a Sacha Cohen Borat mockumentary but with an Indian guru as opposed to a Kazakh journalist. Roger Ebert liked it and Stephen Holden said: "His impersonation was the biggest lie he’s ever told and the greatest truth he’s ever experienced."

 Vikram Gandhi unshaven

I obviously think the movie is great otherwise I wouldn't have taken the time to review it here. As it happened, there was a period in my life when I meditated several hours a day, performed ritualistic prayers to induce trance states and engaged in divination and soothsaying. Older now, I have a greater understanding of the psychological dynamics of the guru-student, but at the time, at some point if the guru vibe sticks, the student has a transformative effect on the guru. Because Vikram was not a "real" guru, the power of the students that flowed to him ended up having a very powerful effect on him. This is something that every priest, counselor, therapist, etc., must learn to deal with or be destroyed by. The scene in the bathroom at the unveiling was very tender and heart-warming, showing that Kumare was not another Borat and that a great truth about life and humanity is being shared.

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