Searching for Sheela, an hour-long documentary film streaming on Netflix, didn’t entertain me much. It felt more of ceremonial events than actually searching for the real Ma Anand Sheela.
Before clicking on the play button, I had a bunch of questions about who Sheela was as a person, but little did I know that nothing will be solved in Searching for Sheela; it is just another Karan Johar movie in a king-size treatment.
Searching for Sheela opens at her house in Switzerland, where she has opened a helping care system for disabled people, and from there, the plot moves to her homecoming to India after 35 years. The docu-movie promised to give much of her side of the story regarding the controversies that have surrounded her life, but alas! It all felt like a mashup of old DVDs than anything new or fruitful.
This 58-minute long documentary film is helmed without a director and has been executively produced by Shakun Batra. In the docu-movie, you will see some well-established journalists, including Barkha Dutt, Faye D’souza, and eminent personalities like Raghu Rai (photographer) and Karan Johar (filmmaker) himself.
Ma Anand Sheela is undoubtedly a fiery lady with a boss-like attitude and a brave woman, but what really felt weird was that she fell in love with a spiritual man like Baghwan. Her home back in Switzerland has pictures of Osho all around.
In one of the scenes, while Karan was interviewing Ma Anand Sheela, he asked whether Sheela and Bhagwan’s relationship was strictly platonic, to that she replied, “I didn’t have sex with him if that is what you mean… His eyes were probably more beautiful than his penis…”
Ma Anand Sheela, a Gujarati girl who was Bhagwan’s secretary, is mainly known for the controversies regarding the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, fraud immigration, attempting murder, and whatnot. She was even sentenced to jail for 20 years but got out after 36 months based due to good conduct. She stayed low profile since then. This docu-movie was more interested in her coming back to India after so many years than focusing on shining light on her past behaviour.
Stream it or skip it?
Searching for Sheela doesn’t feel genuine or interesting. I felt Sheela’s answers were mostly composedly written, and she only said it’s all in her past and that it’s her share of histories, not Bhagwan’s. She stuck to her answers which she has given way back in her early days of interviews, and nothing really came out of this documentary.
What actually happened, why she is not upset with what Bhagwan did to her, how she got to be blamed, etc. still remains a mystery. It felt more like a fluff piece with no solid content than anything else. The search wasn’t so productive after all.
As reports suggest, a biopic might turn up one day featuring Alia Bhatt, but it’s still unsure. This docu-movie, on the other hand, was a sideline, a ship without a sailor which lost its way back home.
Searching for Sheela is currently streaming on Netflix.
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