Eastern spirituality and meditation are having a moment in American culture as people drift away from institutionalized religions and get in touch with a more therapeutic, deistic system of thought. The attraction of this system was lost, however, on filmmaker Vikram Gandhi. As someone who grew up in eastern faiths, Gandhi sees the yoga and meditation that sets westerners free as something oppressive to liberated from.
In the documentary “Kumaré,” Gandhi decides to get to the bottom of what attracts people to the very thing that repels him by posing as a fictional guru, Sri Kumaré. Spouting a real beard and a fake philosophy, he starts reeling in followers who find true contentment in his teachings.
Gandhi’s investigation into their experience never feels like he’s setting up his adherents to become a punchline like a Jimmy Kimmel bit to embarrass unwitting participants. His documentary is not some kind of sting operation designed to unmask the hollowness of American spiritual longings. Rather, it’s a sincere investigation of faith from a secular perspective. Gandhi occasionally loses sight of this end goal during “Kumaré,” but he comes back to this wide view enough to make the journey worthwhile. B /