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Vikram Gandhi as Sri Kumaré. (Photo courtesy of Kahlil Hudson and Daniel Leeb)

 

By Shannon J. Effinger


Do spiritual leaders really exist? Well, it depends on who you ask. While some are quick to recommend their personal healers and shamans who promise life changing results, others will often shun the idea and simply say “hogwash” and dismiss these “healers” as nothing but con artists who prey on the vulnerable. I’m stuck in the middle. Though I love the notion that people can find inspiration in something (or someone) to keep going during tough times (e.g., Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat, Pray, Love), that person or thing just helps you to tap into an inner strength that was inside the whole time. In the film Kumaré, director Vikram Gandhi embarks on a unique journey in order to examine the role of spiritual healers—by actually becoming one.

Everything about “Sri Kumaré” is fake. Gandhi becomes the guru Kumaré in Arizona, complete with long hair, an Indian accent that he borrowed from his grandmother and an even longer beard. The chants of his followers, all in the “Kumaré language,” are fake (“Be all that you can be,” a loose translation of a popular chant). The poses, one of which looks like you’re playing an air guitar, are made up. Even Kumaré’s Indian origin is a fake—he’s from New Jersey. And yet, his followers were devout and stronger than ever. For these 14 people, including an attorney who defends those convicted of murder, a former crack addict and a young woman who’s trying to find her place in the world, Kumaré was completely real for them. And in turn, Vikram as “Kumaré” gained a much deeper connection to his followers than he expected. What happens when he reveals his true identity to these committed followers?


 


Kumaré picks up where Larry Charles’s Religulous left off in that it is not only full of satire and humor, but it also will force moviegoers to reexamine the notions of truth and illusion in their own beliefs.

 

The film Kumaré premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. To find out more on Kumaré and when it will be showing near you, visit http://www.kumaremovie.com/.

 


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