Only in incredible India can national protests be organized against fictional characters, while a convicted murderer receives Dharma treatment. The Search for Sheela is an hour-long documentary that claims to give the controversial Ma Anand Sheela the opportunity to present the side of the story, but it looks like nothing more than a bonus feature on the DVD.
Executive producer Shakun Batra – there is no credited director in Search of Sheela – is said to be working on her biopic a few years ago and it is very likely that this originated as a side project. Sheela, who until then had made a victory round in the press, even supported the actor Alia Bhatt for the role, provoking a rival project developed by Priyanka Chopra.
Watch an interview with executive producer Shakun Batra here
It was a hot property, a divisive figure, prized as an urban table beacon, who conveniently decided to ignore the serious crimes she had pleaded guilty to. The search for Sheela is related to the emotional story of her great return after years in exile in Switzerland, but it is just a puff piece designed to promote any future Ma Anand Sheela project that Batra ends up directing.
We watch social people and trust funds cut each other’s throats to take a selfie with her, while a prominent journalist practically prostrates herself in front of Sheela, looking at her with the kind of devotion that the former assistant to Osho has reserved for her. -o for Bhagwan. They sold a lifestyle to white people that day; he’s just selling a different one to Desis now.
Sheela in the film is projected as a fierce, independent woman – indeed, this is how she was presented in the press – but I have never seen anyone dedicated to this man. When we first meet her at her house in a Swiss village, her walls are adorned with old pictures of Osho. A few minutes later, when producer Karan Johar asks her in a scene if their relationship was strictly platonic, she replies: “I didn’t have sex with him, if that’s what you mean … His eyes were probably more beautiful than his penis. his … “
Many years have passed since the events described in the cracking documentary Wild Wild Country, but Sheela’s opinion of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh has not even changed. Nor her position on what happened between them. Everyone, from Bina Ramani to Raghu Rai, tries to get information out of her, but Sheela doesn’t give up. She sticks to her story, which essentially means, “I’ve made my time, it’s all over.”
This is the extent to which the film is willing to go into Sheela’s examination. Instead, most of it is dedicated to scenes in which she tries on spectacular outfits at Lodhi Colony and hobnobs with rightful youth at a Chhattarpur farm.
In by far the most provocative scene in the film, a bunch of women are heard whispering to each other that now they can boast of “hosting a murderer.” Their newly uploaded Instagram posts appear on the screen. For status-obsessed Indians, a celebrity is a celebrity is a celebrity. But what the film doesn’t realize is that while it’s okay for Sheela to project herself as an enigma, it’s largely unsettling for the film to play into that narrative.
Read also: Wild Wild Country review: Netflix’s incredible look at Osho’s “sexual cult” will haunt you for days
And this, in short, is the vibration of this operation. It is a wrong miss, miscalculated; a knee-jerk reaction to a top phenomenon of popular culture, informed by a totally disconcerting misinterpretation of what Wild Wild Country was actually trying to say. And, as we all know, you don’t need a Netflix subscription to watch a cult figure born in Gujarat. All you have to do is turn on the news.