This week sees the debut of a fascinating new documentary, Kumaré, in which a director from New Jersey, Vikram Gandhi, goes undercover as a guru and ends up gaining a following through his deception. It's something of a social experiment and you can check out the video above for more background on the premise, or read the synopsis below, courtesy of the film's official site:
Vikram takes us back to where his story began. From an early age, he questioned the meaning of religion and spirituality. Was it all just make believe, or was there something real beyond the realm of our understanding? As a young adult, Vikram found himself perplexed that, just as he was leaving his Hindu faith behind, America was embracing Indian spirituality in the form of yoga studios and gurus who claimed to be on a higher spiritual plane. When he began filming these gurus for a documentary, he discovered there was nothing special about who they were or what they did — they were no more holy than anyone else. In order to prove this, Vikram decides to transform himself into one of them: Sri Kumaré, a guru of his own creation. If he can build a following as Kumaré, wouldn't it demonstrate that spiritual authenticity is just an illusion that wecreate? So he grows out his hair and beard, acquires the bells and whistles of Indian mystics, affects an accent, and transforms himself into the wise Indian Guru Kumaré.
At the heart of the film is the ethical dilemma of using deception to reveal truths and taking people for a ride in order to create a film. A lot of those people provide nutty, Christopher Guest-esque color ("We're from different planets," someone with a straight face tells Kumaré at the Be Aware Festival) and the film itself is so breezy that you can forget to feel bad for the people who are being lied to...if they deserve it in the first place for being so gullible or looking outside for their own internal validation.
The movie ties itself up nicely, but there aren't many easy answers provided. I, for one, am very excited to discuss the process and implications of Kumaré with Vikram. We'll do that at 12 pm ET on Monday, much like we did earlier this week for Chris Crocker. That should give interested people adequate time to have seen the film, but hopefully the background provided here will be all you need to ask way. See you there.