April 1, 2013

Kumare is a riveting documentary that unfortunately does not achieve what it sets out to conquer. The filmmaker does not believe in organized religion. Or rather, he loathes self-help gurus that end up creating cult-like followers, aggrandizing their leaders. The filmmaker is unique in how he perceives the West’s gradual wholesale rejection of its religion, and its migration toward Eastern meditations, which creates the throngs he wishes to address.


He decides for himself to show the absurdity of following a teacher or a guru. He performs a very Sasha Baron Cohen-esque stunt in immersing himself into a fictitious character called Kumare. And as a guru, he slowly infiltrates Tuscon, Arizona yoga communities. It is learned that in part of what attracts individuals to yoga is the spiritual fulfillment its instructors provide.


Shortly thereafter he begins to develop a following. He develops “true believers”, those who he makes a positive impact on by lecturing on his made-up doctrines on life. And yet, his doctrines are not absurd like the exercise he thinks he is filming. In order to develop a following, his teachings must contain some authenticity about self-improvement. While shallow, the lessons he provide gives his groups a feeling of unity. Truly, new age religiosity. It is this religiosity that awes many, and creates a dedicated following.


We do not have any commentary on the nature of the assembly of such religious groups, which have prevailed throughout humanity’s life stream. And we do not have any commentary on the consistency of Kumare’s absurdity. This was supposed to be a trick, though not necessarily a con, to show people that they should not follow spiritual leaders. Even though, ironically, the exercise of following a spiritual leader is perhaps all that is needed for self-fulfillment. It is the active cognizance of self-improvement, away from the manufactured advertisements of what the good is that perhaps draws so many from the West toward the ascetic simplicity of finding a better life through eyes closed and circadian breathing.


In other words, Kumare creates a positive atmosphere for the individuals drawn to him. He creates a positive impact on these people’s lives. And he does this to inevitably inform them that he is a fraud. The filmmaker is not a militant atheist, seeking to mock the spiritually inclined. The film does indeed show him struggle with having to confront his pupils with the truth that he was born in New Jersey and did this as a way to pass his time, on his own journey in life. It is no surprise that through his “unveiling” a yoga instructor stormed out and never to be heard from again. But it is surprising to see a positive reaction from several of his pupils, who were able to see how he improved their lives. They were able to take his lessons for what they are, versus glorify or sanctify the advisor himself.


It is a nice film which uncovers the persistent yearning for humans to find peace in their lives.


Grade: A-



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