Vikram Gandhi is an actor. He became “Kumare” to become a “yogalebrity” with an American following. He spoke with an Indian accent, grew his hair long, and wrapped himself in a sarong. He was evidently quite persuasive.
“Isn’t the most traumatic part of the illusion of Kumare is that the guy who they all thought was from another country actually grew in Jersey?” he told ABC News in Los Angeles after the premiere of the resulting movie, “Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet.”
He did this to illustrate the “absurdity of what we all believe.”
The sound you hear is that of a million feathers getting ruffled. Or, perhaps that would be around six billion because that’s how much the 15 million Americans spend in the yoga industry.
Gandhi started making the film about sadhus, or holy men, in India and the U.S. But soon he decided that a deeper truth could be found by becoming a religious leader himself. So he kicked off his shoes, grew out his beard and hair and started speaking in his Indian grandma’s accent.
Here’s where the story got utterly fascinating for me.
Gandhi said he would tell every yoga class, and repeatedly tell his band of followers, that Kumare was not real, that he was no more a guru than the people in front of him.
“People often thought that was a riddle because the accent, because of the robe and because of what we are programmed to think as a holy man,” he said. “It might be naïve, but I think everybody has a similar potential to be wise and good.”
This guy’s a great marketer. I remember a copywriting mentor I once hired who was deep into Yoga. He was a total jerk (the mentor), but was able to slip on a second “holy” face at the drop of a hat. He tweeted deepeties galore, his Facebook friend list soared… all based on this pseudo personality he played. Except my then-mentor did it for the sole purpose of making money. “There’s money in their wallet that belongs to me,” was his mantra.
Mr. Mentor would snicker, laughing at the stupidity of the human animal… all the while churning out over priced DVD sets, releasing them on his unsuspecting, adoring followers.
It was fascinating to watch, horrifying when I realized the consequences of his duplicity. His behavior is a big reason why I dropped out of the his corner of the marketing game. Meanwhile his fellow marketers marveled at his income stream.
But that’s another story for another day. You can check out the Nightline episode featuring Gandhi here. It’s fascinating