Take a closer look at Ma Anand Sheela’s complex legacy.
By Ashima Sethi
In Netflix’s 2018 documentary series Wild Wild Country, netizens were introduced to controversial Indian guru Baghwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, and his former personal assistant, Ma Anand Sheela. Together the duo established Rajneeshpuram, amassing a large community of followers that followed them to the Oregon desert, where they built a utopian city, much to the chagrin of local ranchers. The chaos and violence that ensued was like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, leaving many netizens ultra-curious about the woman who was recognised as the late Baghwan’s right hand woman for so long.
Well, the streaming giant’s newest release Searching for Sheela picks up where the documentary series left off, shining a light on Ma Anand Sheela’s complex legacy and journey towards redemption. Produced by Shakun Batra, known for his work on Kapoor & Sons (2016), the documentary primarily covers Ma Anand Sheela’s much-anticipated visit to India after several decades to do an interview tour.
During the coverage, she discusses being charged with major crimes such as attempted murder for her role in the Rajneeshee bioterror attack that took place in 1984, accusations of wiretapping, and more. Her involvement led to Sheela being sentenced to over 20 years in prison but she was let out after 39 months on good behaviour, after which she moved to Switzerland to start a special help home for the elderly and those with disabilities.
In the ’80s, Sheela was a force to be reckoned with, giving the press the middle finger on several occasions, and not shying away from expressing her opinions. In this new documentary, the Sheela we meet is different. She is deeply reflective, and set on clearing up the misunderstandings created by the media. However, despite her demure appearance, it’s clear she’s the same fiery person inside.
In 2019, she famously sent Priyanka Chopra Jonas a legal notice after getting word that the B-town actress wanted to play her in a biopic titled Sheela, produced by Amazon Studios. She cited that she had not given Priyanka permission to produce a film based on her life, nor had she approved her to play the role. It is rumoured that despite Sheela’s disapproval, the film is in talks anyway.
Beyond this incident, we won’t spoil too much about what she divulges in the documentary itself. If you’re interested, make sure to tune in. Searching for Sheela is streaming on Netflix now.