The yoga movie that became the ‘fake’ guru documentary ‘Kumare’

I’m feeling a little better that my initial reaction to a new documentary featuring a “fake” guru — I compared it to Borat — seemingly wasn’t all that far off.

Vikram Gandhi, via the NY Times

In a story on the movie and its star/director, Vikram Gandhi, the New York Times pretty much leads with the same idea:

Mr. Gandhi said the inevitable comparisons of “Kumaré,” his first full-length movie (which opens June 20 in New York), with Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” didn’t bother him. Mr. Gandhi, now 33 and a resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said he had already begun his transformation before that film came out — and besides, his documentary is 100 percent unscripted. In a recent interview with Kathryn Shattuck, for which he traded his character’s flowing attire for an untucked white shirt and jeans (he kept the beard), Mr. Gandhi spoke about his spiritual path and pretending to be what he was not.

The Times goes on with a Q&A that explores how a movie that started as a documentary about the yoga industry in America turned into an exploration of the role of the guru. A few quick excerpts:

Q. How did what began as a yoga documentary become “Kumaré”?

A. 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?”

Q. How did you progress?

A. I made up a name. My middle name is Kumar, so I put an “é” at the end.

Q. What about the yoga poses?

A. Anyone nowadays who thinks that they know what authentic yoga asanas are is full of it. India has a lot of scriptures, but it doesn’t have tons of diagrams of all these scorpion poses.


Q. After gaining the trust of these people, did you feel responsible for hurt feelings once you revealed yourself?

A. I was prepared mentally for everything. I already knew that there was no movie without the unveiling. I needed to display the mechanism of the guru and the mechanism of faith. And then laying all the cards on the table and telling them: “You’re making changes in your life, and you don’t need me because I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know anything at all.”

The movie premiered at South by Southwest, and it looks like limited release is set for June 20. Here’s the official trailer:

Along with the Krishna Das documentary, I guess this has to go on the “see” list.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “The yoga movie that became the ‘fake’ guru documentary ‘Kumare’”

  1. I may be late…and I admit this is a knee jerk reaction, but is the documentary itself fake? Are the followers acting? I want to watch the entire film (Netflix) but I have this nagging feeling that even the “followers” are acting. What about the camera “filming?”

    1. cindy, you read my mind,,i have a hunch kumare’s followers are amature actors,,it’s possible the joke is on all of us,,.even the professional critics…not once did anyone accidently look into the camera…..???????

    2. He said in an interview that he told the followers and the people who own the yoga studio where they filmed that they were doing a documentary on a guru named Kumare and “questioning what a spiritual leader is.” Also frank, documentaries are edited so I imagine they would edit out people looking into the camera, you don’t often see that in most documentaries unless intentional.

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