kumare poster

In all likelihood, your belief system manifested over years of study in a certain religious sect. Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish—no matter the religion, someone has been guiding (read: telling) you how to act, who to worship, and what is considered right versus wrong. These faith systems may be engrained in our society, but the idea that we can develop and maintain our own morality has practically been ignored. That is, until Kumare came along.



Filmmaker Vikram Gandhi decided to prove that following a guru and relying on a “religious” figure for one’s beliefs is no way to lead a life. In order to facilitate this teaching, he let his hair and beard grow out, adopted his grandmother’s Indian accent, and set out to teach fake chants and yoga moves to unsuspecting practitioners in Phoenix.

Whereas Sacha Baron Cohen set out to make civilians look moronic in Borat and Bruno, Vikram truly had the best of intentions when adopting a new persona and deceiving people. Throughout the film he literally tells Kumare’s followers—albeit in character—that he is not an actual guru and there is no need to look outside oneself for faith and inspiration. The followers buy into his story so wholeheartedly because he is so believable and gives an air of legitimacy despite being 100% fake.

Kumare 1

In a way, it’s one of the greatest acting performances ever. He goes from nothing in Phoenix to having 15-20 people hanging by his every word. These people are not uneducated nitwits either. In Kumare’s group we see a death penalty attorney among numerous other professionals, Phd’s, and more. It’s proof that the only common ground between people joining cults or sects is the insecurity in one’s own strength.

When the followers begin divulging their deepest, darkest secrets—one woman divorces her husband and leaves town after gaining strength from Kumare’s teachings—Vikram begins to provide his own thoughts. At no point does he boast or show pride in how he is deceiving these people. This becomes most evident at “The Unveiling” where Kumare provides his ultimate lesson of unveiling one’s true self, which means outing himself as a fraud.

kumare 2

While his helpers go through the ritualistic, nonsensical chanting with the followers, we see Vikram, in costume, having a near breakdown because he has grown to love his followers and does not want to hurt them so tremendously after having helped them for months.

The thing that sets Kumare apart from other deceit-based documentaries or movies is that in every aspect, Vikram is truly trying to prove a legitimate, genuine point. We don’t need a strict guide of rules and regulations from someone who believes themselves to be touched by a religious (or galactic) figure. All we need is the faith in ourselves to do what is right and be great people. It’s an incredible story that is humorous, engaging, jaw-dropping, and extremely entertaining.

    • movie snob
    • June 12th, 2013

    This is the first I have heard about this movie (AND YOUR REVIEW MAKES ME WANT TO SEE IT) — when was it released and did it have any theatrical showing?

    • Then see it! According to IMDB it was released in 2011 and had a domestic box office of $130k, so not much of a release. I think it mostly wiled away winning film festivals.

  1. June 28th, 2013

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