Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination'  Starring Ethan Hawke SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination' Starring Ethan Hawke From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Kumaré' A Morally Questionable Docu-Comedy About Expensive Yoga Gurus

Photo of Christopher Bell By Christopher Bell | The Playlist June 20, 2012 at 4:58PM

Sick of spiritualists charging an arm and a leg just to spout incredibly vague musings designed to help you? Think they're all a bunch of scammers taking advantage of those who actually need real assistance? If so, you're in luck, because Vikram Gandhi is on your wavelength. This filmmaker has made a documentary not unlike "Borat" in which he pretends to be a native Indian guru (code name: Kumare), creating his own philosophy and gathering very dedicated followers. Unlike the Kazakh, the director will reveal himself to his peons at the end in an effort to prove that whatever change occurred was because of them and not him. Winner of the Audience Award and the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, "Kumare" is a tricky flick that makes a scary case on how easy it is to begin a cult, but it also (unsurprisingly) is a morally questionable film endeavor.
1
Kumare

Sick of spiritualists charging an arm and a leg just to spout incredibly vague musings designed to help you? Think they're all a bunch of scammers taking advantage of those who actually need real assistance? If so, you're in luck, because Vikram Gandhi is on your wavelength. This filmmaker has made a documentary, not unlike "Borat," in which he pretends to be a native Indian guru (code name: Kumaré), creating his own philosophy and gathering very dedicated followers. Unlike the faux Kazakh, the director will reveal himself to his peons at the end, in an effort to prove that whatever change occurred was because of them and not him. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, "Kumaré" is a tricky flick that makes a scary case for how easy it is to begin a cult, but it also (unsurprisingly) is a morally questionable film endeavor.

Growing out his hair and adopting a very faux accent (think Apu from "The Simpsons"), Gandhi starts small by leading a very tiny yoga session consisting of two people. All it takes is one, though, and he manages to swoon an attendee, who ends up spreading the word. Before he knows it, Kumaré has a dozen believers, and the more he sees them, the more personal things they confide. He has them do "vision boards" (cut outs pasted to paper, like elementary school projects), drops hints in his discussions that he is not who they think he is (he slides "I am the biggest faker I know," thoughtfully into a speech), and even sets two of his followers up romantically. Soon he will have to come clean, as his ultimate lesson is that people can help themselves without a guru -- they simply need to confront themselves within. But eventually he starts to appreciate being this character, citing the newfound attention and respect. Ultimately he decides to prolong the ruse. But for how long will he do this? 

Kumare

Although his goofy teachings are amusing, it does seem a bit mean-spirited to be laughing at these people who are only seeking guidance. Whereas Borat is in character for 100% of his film, here the director fully explains his plans to the audience, and frequently comments throughout the movie as himself rather than as Kumaré. With this kind of personal perspective, it's a bit strange how little Gandhi verbally laments taking advantage of his followers for the experiment. Even when he hesitates in showing them his true identity, it almost feels like he's doing it moreso because he enjoys being the character rather than stopping the charade.

Though sometimes the humor is a bit rude, there are some instances which prove downright frightening. In one sequence, he gets a devoted follower (someone not part of the regular group) to pray in front of three pictures: himself, Barack Obama, and Osama bin Laden. To us this is clearly outrageous, but the man doesn't bat an eye. Gandhi explores the levels of trust that everyone puts into a man they really know nothing about, displaying how people in need of spiritual help will latch on to anything that promises them peace of mind.

Kumare

We're not sure if his lesson comes through in the end, which was that everything that people needed to help themselves was actually within them the entire time. It’s an understandable point, but by being Kumaré, he's pulling it out of them -- something they either didn't know they had or were afraid to confront, but either way, he had to guide them towards it. So maybe it can be argued that the lesson is in the form of the film, telling audience members not to seek out expensive and dubious gurus because they can work on their own problems solo. But here’s the logic: instead of seeking a mentor and being guided by him, be guided by a film about a fake sage who tricks people into following him. Well, at least a film ticket is cheaper than a philosophizing yoga instructor.

Gandhi makes strong points within his film, but some of them are too flimsy to really stand. It’s definitely a warmer movie than something like “Borat,” as even though he’s tricking people to participate in his experiment, you can feel that he actually wants them to better themselves; he actually cares for them. That said, it’s not as funny or insightful as Sacha Baron Cohen’s ruse, and while “Kumaré” definitely isn’t boring, it may leave you with a bitter aftertaste. [C+]

This is a reprint of our review from DOC NYC.

This article is related to: Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates