Monday, April 01, 2013


I watched Kumare on Netflix. It is a documentary by Vikram Gandhi, an American of Hindu Indian descent. He is dubious of gurus, so he grows his hair and beard long, wears an orange monk-like costume and speaks in a phony Indian accent. He moves to Phoenix to operate as a guru, and actually gains a small group of followers. He creates a cult, but his followers do not know it is phony.

So far so good. As an Objectivist, the film strikes me as a dramatization of the absurdities contemporary Americans go through to find values and fulfillment (a profoundly selfish pursuit) when they have been told all their life that selfishness is evil. One woman cries because (as I remember it) she fears people will say she is selfish. Several others make a big show of saying that "helping others" is what life is all about.  All this nonsense results from altruism separating ideals from the reality of existence. The people in this film are seekers of ideals, but hopelessly lost in a sea of mysticism because modern philosophy teaches us that ideals cannot exist in reality. There is no logical thinking on display among the cultists in this documentary.

But an odd thing happens about halfway through the film. Mr. Gandhi loses his nerve. He sees that these vulnerable people believe in him, and he wants to help them. In a way, he begins to believe his lie. He gives them psychotherapeutic counseling.

He tells them to write down five things they want to accomplish and then take action to accomplish them. This is not bad advice, and many of the cult members do improve their life. Gandhi wants his followers to look within for solutions, not to a guru -- and this is good advice indeed. But one wonders if a filmmaker perpetrating a hoax, like Sasha Baron Cohen but not funny, has the right to change people's lives.

Gandhi plays a dangerous game with real people's lives, and it shows on his face as he nears the time he is supposed to reveal who he really is. In his first attempt, with his cult gathered around his backyard pool, he fails to come clean. He can't do it.

The second time he tries to reveal himself, some 40 days later in what seems to be a banquet room or community center, he does tell his real name, but the ending does not satisfy. He should have said something like, "I must apologize for perpetrating an elaborate hoax on you." But no apology comes. Instead, he maintains that he has done this for their good. He says his "ideal self is Kumare" instead of admitting that Kumare was a lie.

It is the eternal cry of meddling do-gooders: I lied to you for your own good! Sorry, I don't buy it. The most deluded fool in this film is Vikram Gandhi, who believed his own lie.


Anonymous said...

i agree with your analysis. Saw the movie last night and i think he did this to further his director/producer career at the cost of embarrasing nice people who were maybe already depressed, lonely, or seeking meaning while living in a confusing world. I would assume most of the cast members in retrospect would like to not be included this movie. Did they have to sign release forms ahead of time? or were they given the option to have their faces blacked out and their identities hid if they wanted after realizing the truth? but before the film's release? probably the best option they had during the "unvieling" was to act cool and positive about it, just to not come off as foolish. At least Sasha baron cohen doesn't pretend like he's doing anyone a favor. I also don't get how anyone can take the part where he stresses out with guilt before the unveiling seriously. He's worked up to this for months and he's filming his own performance of guilty feelings. Kumare to me is more cruel than the imposter guru who just takes your money.

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