Within religion there are both self-appointed intermediaries claiming to be God's channel, be they individuals or organizations, as well as phony teachers. And so it is within the world of spirituality as well. This extraordinary film, a documentary by Vikram Gandhi, concentrates on the latter.
Kumare (2012) shows Vikram Gandhi, an American-born man, playing the part of a guru from India. With the aid of two lovely assistants, two young women, Vikram Gandhi travels to Phoenix, Arizona, where his guru-playing role of “Kumare” begins.
Remarkably, Gandhi, as Kumare, goes onto attract a devoted following of about a dozen people quickly, easily. Among them, a woman who tells him that she can see a highly positive aura about him. These men and women don't go so far as to deify Kumare, but they certainly revere him.
One of the mystical-minded persons Kumare befriends is a woman with a Law of Attraction-esque philosophy; another describes himself as an acoustic theologist, and the scenes that show him teaching Kumare a few of his own rituals – with the help from a didgeridoo – made me chuckle. We are also introduced to Gabriel, albeit not of Kumare's circle, but rather the co-leader (along with his wife) of the Urantia movement.
Gandhi, as Kumare, is not out to deceive anyone for the sake of deceiving. As I watched it, I recalled another documentary I enjoyed, called Marjoe (1972), about a bogus evangelist who spent years of his adult life exploiting those who paid to come listen to his enthusiastic sermons only to give up the racket on account of a troubled conscience. The deception that Gandhi engages in, as the mumbo-jumbo-spouting pseudo-guru and faux yogin, Kumare, is done in all honest sincerity, as a means of teaching, in the end, a vital lesson.
As for the manner in which Gandhi chooses to reveal his true identity (returning to Phoenix, Arizona, from New York City, after about a month-and-a-half absence), I thought the demystification process was handled thoughtfully. At the moment Vikram strolls into the meeting-place as himself, in regular street clothes, clean-shaven and groomed, looking every bit as common as the next person, to reveal to his followers of his Kumare persona having been a mask, Gandhi's heart must have been beating fast and his palms sweating. (This scene I found to be absolutely riveting.) He appears calm and of cool composure, nevertheless. Following the unveiling, a few in the room are seen to get up and leave. Understandably, some must have felt like the proverbial rug had just been pulled out from under them. Whereas, others take Gandhi's revelation as being the crux of his teaching.
Kumare is an exceptional documentary (one that I recently watched for the third time), whose purpose for existing is to show just how unnecessary spiritual intermediares are, and how foolish it is for people to look up to them with awe (considering that most of them may be no more than charlatans), that improvement, development of self – and possibly even transcendence – comes from within.