March 23, 2013

Kumare: Fake Guru. Real Truth.

Casting about for something to watch on Netflix streaming, I stumbled across this 2011 gem. How I missed it when it came through theaters, I am not sure, but so happy I found it. Movie website here. Kumare (the guru, not the movie) website here. IMDB page here.


Was not sure what I would get. The premise - american born, Indian heritage film-maker Vikram Gandhi, who appears to have done a bit of searching (and yoga) in his life, decides to do a little social experiment. Creating a spiritual teacher or guru, Kumare, out of thin air - he begins to move through the world (and more specifically, through the Phoenix AZ area) as Kumare and see what happens. Along the way he encounters a fair number of yoga studios, seeker, followers. 

Now, as a yoga teacher, I find myself surrounded by gurus and spiritual seekers who sit at their feet. It was *very* close to home on many fronts - the many yoga studios, the festivals and events, the various ashrams and communities. There's even a kirtan. Hey, that's me up there, playing guitar.And when a quite beautiful adherent in an unhappy marriage practically offers herself to him (he makes a reference to his bedroom) you can quite see how so many purportedly real gurus give in to the power. It's never quite stated, but one is left with the feeling that Vikram did not give in to this temptation.

And there is a lot of pretty sharp commentary and laughter here too - when one guru confesses that he sees nothing amiss with sleeping with beautiful young followers, yeah, we get that. When someone working with sound starts working over Kumare with a car buffer - it's a WTF moment. And yet, when Kumare visits a community of believers along the fringes (alien abduction and interplanetary channeling) he (Vikram) seems respectful.

Eventually, Kumare finds himself in the center of a circle of disciples or followers, and he begins (in earnest) the task of preparing his followers for his eventual "un-masking" - that is, to reveal himself and his deception. 

It is a fascinating and amazing piece of legerdemain, and film-making. Abetted by two attractive assistants (and what guru does not have his/her close associates or confidants) and adopting an amazingly on target guru personna (simple clothing, long hair and beard, an ever-present staff, and a little woven suitcase that was adorable and ludicrous), "Kumare" teaches his truth - that he is not who he says he is, that there is an inner guru, that there is no guru, no buddha. 

It's deep, metaphysical, and self-referential. It's funny, and sad, and heart-warming, and scary. I loved it. Loved it. 

The most amazing thing was the transformation of Vikram himself - who begins to realize that he is a much happier, better person in his Kumare personna, and begins to truly care for and love his followers. He's not going to step out lightly - but agonizes over if and how to end his project.  At one point he confesses that he actually sees and feels the "Blue Light" (a conceit he knows that he has invented). And when he orchestrates a "great unmasking" where he hopes to reveal his true identity, he's unable to do it.  

Finally, there is a "tribal council" type reveal - in a large room all the followers watch a farewell video from "Kumare" and then meet the newly shorn, shaved, and westernized Vikram. You watch one follower run to hug him, another sneak out the side door, never to return. Out of 14 followers, 10 have remained in contact and friendly.

It's such an amazing look at the world of yoga, of spiritual seekers, of gurus. And I loved the way the films focus shifted from the perspective of perhaps attempting to unpants the false gurus to respecting communities, belief, and the path. One comment I found on Facebook discusses "The Trickster" face of god, and yeah. Trickster energy, in spades.

Watch it if you can!

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