Wednesday, July 11, 2012


                                                                                Kino Lorber
Belief is a commodity and a sometimes coveted one at that. Certain parts of India manufacture gurus the way Manhattan produces real estate tycoons and it wouldn’t be surprising to find that some eventually invested in Manhattan real estate. Vikram Gandhi’s Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet, a documentary about a mock guru, is Moliere’s Tartuffe with a little bit of Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There thrown in. Gandhi put one over in Arizona, a part of the country that attracts spiritual seekers, some of whom have come to tragic ends--like those who died in a sweat lodge--under the influence of a zealot named James Arthur Ray who eventually was jailed for his crimes. Nothing this invidious happens in Kumare to the extent that is it is a send up with a spiritual message itself. The fact that people saw things in Gandhi’s created character, just the way they projected themselves on to Chance or Chauncey Gardener (played by Peter Sellers in the movie of the Kosinski novel) is precisely the director’s spiritual and philosophical intention. Gandhi wanted “his followers" to find the guru in themselves. Happiness and even feelings of divinity are two by-products of belief and Gandhi’s unwitting subjects, who include a lawyer who deals with death penalty cases, a troubled woman leaving her marriage, a recovering addict, an acoustic theologist and the members of a sect who chant “kabam” and use vision boards, refuse to relinquish their belief even as Gandhi aka Kumare tells them “I am not who you think I am.” The film could easily have been a skit on Saturday Night Live, but the director gets his cake and eats it too. Satire can be revealing, but it is rarely edifying and instructive in a positive way. The idea an illusion can function as a mirror that is also empowering is almost visionary!

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