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Kumare – a Film by Vikram Gandhi | Review

One could be forgiven for thinking that you are watching yet another Sacha Baron Cohen stunt on celluloid but, dare I say it, this is much better.  As part of a social experiment, filmmaker Vikram Gandhi dons an orange robe, grows a beard, and transforms himself from a Jersey boy into a wise Indian guru by the name of Kumare.  As Kumare, he then sets out to convince and indoctrinate a group of followers in the west that he is the real deal.  The aim? To challenge one of the most widely accepted taboos: that only a tiny “1%” can connect the rest of the world to a higher power. Concealing his true identity from everyone he meets, Kumare forges profound and spiritual connections with people from all walks of life.  At the same time, in the absurdity of living as an entirely different person, Vikram is forced to confront difficult questions about his own identity.

Gandhi manages to create an engaging documentary that holds a mirror up to his own questions about religion and beliefs and shines the reflection on the unenlightened.  This starts off comical and cliché making us laugh at the directionless new agers but quickly transforms into something deeper as he takes us on a journey of transformation, his own, the people he touches and us the audience.

The story unfolds admirably rather like the message Kumare the great guru is developing as he goes along and has you sweating towards the end when at the height of his popularity he contemplates revealing his true identity to a core group of disciples who are knee-deep in personal transformation. Will they accept his final teaching? Will he be able to prove that no one really needs anyone else to make them feel better about themselves?

Kumare delivers on all counts.  It is educational, informative, funny and entertaining.

Kumare” opens in Los Angeles at The Cinefamily on Friday, July 26th and will have a full week run from August 3rd through August 9th.  In addition, it was voted the AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER – Documentary Feature: SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2011

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