Sri Kumaré is an enlightened guru from the East who has come to America to spread his teachings. After three months in Phoenix, Kumaré has found a group of devoted students who embrace him as a true spiritual teacher. But beneath his long beard, deep penetrating eyes, and his endless smile, Kumaré has a secret he is about to unveil to his disciples: he is not real. Kumaré is really Vikram Gandhi, an American filmmaker from New Jersey who wanted to see if he could transform himself into a guru and build a following of real people. Now, he is conflicted — can he unveil the truth to these disciples with whom he has spent so much time, and who now look to him for guidance?
From NY Times interview:
I was meeting tons of different spiritual leaders and teachers, and I’d be saying: “This person is just making something up. Why does everyone else think this is legitimate?” What I saw made me think: “What if I pretended to be one of these people? Wouldn’t that show something about the nature of why people are grasping onto things, especially if I’m going to be saying that what I’m teaching is not real and it’s kind of nonsense?”
I would say I am a skeptical person, and not religious at all, so I can see why Gandhi would want to prove that people are gullible and religion is about blind faith. On the other hand, I would never be able to keep up a ruse this complicated for that amount of time. Sometimes when I am trying to prank people, I just can’t control my face and I burst out laughing. Furthermore, I would feel soooo uncomfortable with people talking about their personal lives and their beliefs and struggles. From the interviews I’ve seen, Gandhi definitely did not expect people to accept him so readily and I think he was surprised that people attributed changes in their lives to him. The documentary follows Gandhi from the development of his “cult” to the unveiling of his true identity. My impression is that this goes well, rather than turning into a huge disaster, but I guess will have to wait and see.
Here are some interviews from SXSW; they do give away a fair amount of the story: