If you had the opportunity to make a lot of money and be madly revered by throngs of people, just by telling a few fibs, would you do it? Because you can, and it’s pretty easy. Vikram Gandhi set out to prove it with his documentary film, Kumaré, and even he was amazed at how easy it was.
Vikram, New Jersey-born to South Asian immigrants, began his experiment by growing out his beard and practicing yoga. He banged together a few manifestos made up of nonsense off of the top of his head, and developed some of his own “meditations” to pass on. When he was sufficiently bearded and yoga-capable, he put on an Indian accent and he relocated to Arizona to seek out a venue where he could hold a class.
Within his first few classes, teaching his students his own nonsense words of wisdom and completely made up, and totally goofy yoga moves and meditations, he was beginning to accumulate a devoted following. “Guru” they called him, and they attributed other-worldly powers to him. People reported feeling intense emotions around him, or that he emanated a powerful light. They turned to him with their personal problems, they followed his every move. He had them chanting nonsense, and twisting in strange contortions he swore was yoga.
As time moved forward, Vikram began to feel more and more uncomfortable in his position, presiding over the life decisions of some of his most devoted disciples. He began to dread the reveal, aptly named “The Unveiling”. People cried in his presence. They cried about loss, divorce, health issues, addiction issues. They confided in him about the stresses of their work, and about how much they missed people who were no longer in their lives. These were real problems, had by real people and Vikram felt terrible that he’d been lying to them the entire time.
I won’t spoil how it turns out, you’ll have to watch it yourself. What I will say is that even I, an atheist and a skeptic, found it unreal how easily and quickly these people were duped. This movie perfectly illustrates why you must question all claims of the supernatural with absolute rigour. While parts of this film were hilarious, it was ultimately sad. Sad because so many people are desperate for anything to connect to, sad that people were so easily duped and sad that even after it’s proven time and again that many religious leaders, gurus, psychics and mediums and phonies, people still want to believe.
Have you seen Kumaré? What did you think?