India is renowned for the bizarre feats performed by holy men, who hang themselves on hooks, walk through fire and materialise objects from thin air to demonstrate their divine status. Guru Busters shows how these apparently magical acts can be performed by ordinary people and are no more than trickery.
Packed with startling action footage the film goes on the road with India’s Rationalists, who are campaigning to rid their country of superstition and witchcraft.
The campaigners’ main targets are the “godmen”, gurus, holy men and holy women who claim to have divine powers. From tropical Kerala to the slums of Kolkata they confront the godmen and stage public demonstrations to debunk their supernatural claims.
They amaze crowds by showing them how they can eat fire, walk through bonfires and stick skewers through their cheeks without feeling pain. A veteran guru buster teaches young men how to levitate, bury themselves alive and haul heavy vehicles with hooks threaded through the skin of their back.
Campaigners confront a fraudulent fakir who claims to heal people by baptising them with fire. A healer who offers a magical cure for snakebites takes up a challenge from the Rationalists to prove that his therapy works. In front of a crowd of several thousand people the healer uses spells and incantation to try to save a dog that has been bitten by a cobra. When he fails, he has to make a public declaration promising never to use this treatment again.
It’s not just poor, uneducated people who line the pockets of dubious gurus and quacks. Politicians and scientists are devotees of the godmen the Rationalists are trying to expose. One of the most famous, Satya Sai Baba, has millions of followers. He impresses his celebrity guests by materialising valuable trinkets from thin air. Guru Busters was the first documentary to show suppressed Indian news video of Sai Baba that allegedly reveals the guru using a stage magician’s trick to produce a gold necklace.
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Producer/director: Robert Eagle
Narrator: Art Malik
Assistant producer: Anna Symon
Camera: Malcolm Oldfield
Sound: David Bimson
Editor: Adam Finch
Composer: Sam Mills