Can a fake religion have the same effect as a real one? A new movie, billing itself as “the true story of a false prophet” asks just that.
Cultivating a personal mythology and perfecting a fresh-off-the-boat Indian accent, New Jersey-born filmmaker Vikram Gandhi grew a thick beard, put on orange robes, and set up shop in Arizona, where he quickly acquired a cult following. His chants, rituals, and yoga poses may have been largely nonsensical, but Kumaré's ability to give troubled individuals hope and spiritual guidance – a former cocaine addict, a death penalty attorney and a single mother whose children have left for college, among others – was real.
"Kumaré" won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. Filmmaker Gandhi discusses what he learned while juggling the roles of fake guru and a real filmmaker.