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'Short Cut': Surface Scarcely Scratched

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page WE

Faith and spirituality can be seen, if not felt, in the vast numbers of pilgrims that come every 12 years to the Kumbh Mela, a universally sacred spot on the Ganges River. (Why every 12? It has to do with an ancient, ongoing tussle between the forces of good and bad, which dislodges sacred drops of spiritual evanescence -- as told in the Bhagavad-Gita.) The devoted come from all points on the globe in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and the ecstasy, epiphany and revelation therein.

"Short Cut" is an overture to the subject rather than a profound study, unfortunately. Filmmakers Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day are much more taken with the conventionish sideshow (there are estimates of these crowds ranging from 30 million to 70 million, making these the largest gatherings of humanity ever) than the deeper content. There doesn't seem to be an imposing order to things, no documentary attitude or point of view to stir you. But there is more than enough to observe, as it were, through a glass starkly: interviews with the Dalai Lama; the Japanese guru who buries herself underground for days; the guru who ties his genitalia around a metal pipe and bids people jump up and down on it; and the Indian mystic who seems at least as interested in an American nurse (also a seeker of the path) as his headier pursuits.

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We don't do more than scratch the surface, which surely isn't the purpose of the people in front of the camera. SHORT CUT TO NIRVANA: KUMBH MELA (Unrated, 85 minutes) --Contains some nudity. In English and Hindi with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.


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