Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kumare: That was No Guru . . .

Vikram Gandhi is from New Jersey (so allowances should be made).  He will pass himself off as an Indian guru, finding plenty of New Age suckers to fall for his docu-punking.  While all religions are his stated target, he will inadvertently prove Hamilton’s maxim about falling for anything if you believe in nothing.  Indeed, it is like Marin County at the height of the est craze in Gandhi’s Kumare (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York at the IFC Center.

After a trip to wardrobe and a stop at hair & makeup, Gandhi is ready to give Phoenix Whole Foods customers the full Borat treatment in his Sri Kumare persona.  Fresh from his Indian ashram, Kumare makes the rounds of the local yoga circuit trolling for disciples.  To look legit, he has two co-conspirators, Purva Bedi and Kristen Galgaro, who act like Price is Right models for the holistic scene.

Granted, it takes a bit of time for Kumare to kick start his guru practice, but before long, he has a room full of Volvo drivers hanging on his every word.  The devilish part is the essence of Kumarism: Kumare is fake—you are your own guru.  It is so obvious, one can almost see how his loyal followers missed such a fundamental clue.

If nothing else, Gandhi proves he can shoot fish in a barrel.  It is pretty clear the spirituality set is just asking to be taken for a ride.  Frankly, they are lucky to have fallen in with Kumare, who scrupulously refrained from fleecing the flock.  However, they hardly prove Gandhi’s bigger rational materialist point.  Ironically, had they been asked, Kumarists would probably have said they were too free-thinking for organized religion.  Indeed, it seems a safe bet they are “spiritual, not religious.”

Kumare derives a considerable number of laughs from Gandhi’s brazen chutzpah.  To his credit, he starts to feel bad about just how far he is able to take the joke, but his attempt to wrap it all up in a Kumbaya teaching moment falls way flat.  Make no mistake, the joke is unequivocally on his would-be disciples.  Lacking the guts and intellectual heft of a Mads Brugger, Gandhi really is like a Sacha Baron Cohen for the art-house market.  Recommended for those who need to feel smarter than other people to maintain their sense of self-worth, Kumare opens tomorrow (6/20) in New York at the IFC Center.