“Redemption lies in guilt, that is why I can’t redeem myself.” – Ma Anand Sheela
Whereas Netflix’s docuseries Wild Wild Nation tried to dissect the scandal, the tradition conflict, and the details round Rajneesh Osho’s downfall, Shakun Batra’s newest documentary Searching For Sheela explores the journey of a woman who, for many, has been a topic of utter fascination.
Sheela Ambalal Patel aka Ma Anand Sheela, Osho’s admiral, was a personality that Wild Wild Nation didn’t delve sufficient into. The journey of Searching For Sheela is exactly in the direction of that. It’s a journey that follows her by means of a “homecoming” after 35 years.
We solely perceive Sheela higher by means of the dichotomies of views round her, and true to her illusive infamy, she lives as much as her noncommittal standing, clinically veiling it as the complete reality.
Whereas younger youngsters have a look at her like a pop-culture phenomenon, some may take into account her an icon of feminism, a number of merely label her a “felony” with a murky past, however how she paves her approach by means of all of it is what Searching for Sheela is all about.
The documentary balances delicately Sheela’s response to her viewers and their gaze in the direction of a woman who could be very troublesome to classify or field.
In an nearly meta-narrative format, the movie is a mirror to individuals’s consciences whereas they attempt to demystify Sheela’s a number of layers.
Sheela, by means of her “tour,” professes and confesses to just one reality – that she has at all times lived past the apparent. She admits that to grasp her is to grasp the best way to shed burdens or boundaries of any greater being — God, faith, State, and even legislation (I, daresay). It is just once we detach ourselves from these demarcations, will we actually perceive what we stand for in the current. A lot to the exasperation of her detractors, then, she stays steadfast and fiercely guarded of her innocence in the direction of and keenness for Bhagwan (which means God, one other title with which Osho was referred to).
However that’s not to say that Searching For Sheela defends the former empress of Rajneeshpuram. With ample footage from Sheela’s former years as Rajneesh’s commander-in-chief, the documentary paints a picture of a formidable woman with determined bravado, one which hardly ever hesitates earlier than taking fatalistic steps to go well with her means. Such drama and beautiful extravagance make for good tv content material. As Batra places it in an interview, “It’s Greek theatre, simply enjoying out in actual life.”
A lot to Batra’s type of unambiguous storytelling, Sheela’s existence is considered by means of one such prism that international media has lengthy since liked to eviscerate — that of an unrequited lover, of a woman spurned in her affections in the direction of a larger-than-life man. She unabashedly states to director Karan Johar (in a section in the documentary) that she has solely had a platonic relationship with Osho, and that she thinks his eyes had been in all probability much more enchanting “than his penis.”
Via the documentary, Sheela is positioned earlier than fellow social targets like Bina Ramani and her daughter Malini, two principal witnesses embroiled in the Jessica Lal homicide case. They focus on how they tackled full ostracism following courtroom judgements in opposition to them. Despite the fact that Sheela empathises with their ache, she distances herself from the collective guilt that many in such conditions share. “I don’t stay with any regret,” she says plainly.
Searching For Sheela creates an surroundings during which the 71-year-old former Vadodara resident may be herself. A quick section into the documentary, which in reality stands as the most genuine, witnesses Sheela break down when she is taken to her ancestral dwelling in Gujarat. A sure swing with her father’s favorite cushions makes her sentimental, and you might be compelled to see the free-spirited, small-town woman, giddy with dreamy eyes and sworn to stardom.
Sheela’s erstwhile notoriety appears to have aged gracefully in tandem with her gray mane and quite a few wrinkles that sit elegantly on her face. She defends herself until the final, proudly declaring that she did what needed to be performed in an effort to defend the ones she liked and cared for, very similar to her nurturing instincts with her sufferers at her present particular assist dwelling in Bazel, Switzerland.
The message embedded in Searching For Sheela is that the woman behind the enigma has moved on from her past, and might solely look past in the direction of higher days of guilt-free existence. Whether the documentary actually uncovers the girl is the inevitable query that looms giant over its 57-minute-runtime.
Searching For Sheela is streaming on Netflix India.