Netflix released the first official trailer for “Searching for Sheela,” a short feature film follow-up to its smash hit docuseries “Wild Wild Country,” about the controversial Oregon Rajneesh cult and its spiritual leader, Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (i.e., Osho). The film follows the enigmatic cult leader’s right hand woman, known as Ma Anand Sheela, an intensely devoted follower who instantly became the most compelling and unsettling character in the series. “Searching for Sheela” will capitalize on the fascination with this dangerously charismatic woman.
Here’s the official synopsis provided by Netflix: “Osho’s controversial and sassy ex-secretary, Ma Anand Sheela returns to India after 34 years of exile and people just can’t get enough of her. Searching for Sheela is an intimate look into her journey across India, observing the rebranding of her as a pop-culture icon, with audiences unable to decide if they deem her a “criminal” or remain in awe of her badass secretary days. Sheela, now frail and 70, in the twilight of her life, appears to be seeking redemption, but is she? And if she is, does a world consumed by spectacle allow her the space to?”
Ultimately sentenced to 20 years in federal prison but paroled after just 39 months, Sheela served as Osho’s lieutenant throughout the early 1980s, helping move his followers known as the Rajneesh from an ashram in India to Wasco County, Oregon. She eventually became President of Rajneesh Foundation International. As tensions within the community rose, Sheela set out to rig the election by recruiting homeless people to vote for her and Osho, and conspiring to poison citizens to stop opposing votes — in a massive-scale claim to power that become known as the 1984 Rajneesh bio-terror attack. As essentially the brains of the operation, she was ultimately accused of a list of crimes, from arson to mass poisonings, as well as attempted murder, to which she pled guilty.
Sheela made such an impression in “Wild Wild Country” that this is just one of two film projects in the works about the former personal secretary turned convicted bio-terrorist. In addition to the documentary, a narrative feature is in the works from Amazon Studios. “Sheela” will star Priyanka Chopra as the titular anti-heroine. The film is set to be directed by Barry Levinson with a script from Nick Yarborough.
Netflix will drop “Searching for Sheela” on April 22. Check out the trailer below.