Searching For Something Interesting
Searching For Sheela presents itself as the sequel to Wild, Wild Country. For those unaware, this fascinating and often shocking series followed the enigmatic Indian Guru Rajneesh (later known as Osho) and his cult-like teachings. This saw hundreds of thousands flock to his relocated sanctuary in America.
The series depicted the rise and subsequent nasty fall of this community, along with all the issues this caused for a small neighbouring town. The documentary series was fair, balanced and absolutely shocking.
Searching For Sheela then is none of the above. Instead, what we get is a fly on the wall distortion as Ma Anand Sheela returns to India a celebrity and revels in the plaudits she gains from the general public. From girls shaking her hand and taking selfies through to journalists laughing along with her quips, one can’t help but feel this woman is taking everyone for a ride.
To be fair, this fly on the wall approach is balanced slightly by archival footage peppered through. Within this we’re reminded of the fiery nature this woman adopts and of her shady past.
Specifically, the start of the film reminds us that Sheela pleaded guilty in 1986 to accounts of poisoning, wiretapping and attempted murder. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was released after only 39 months on good behaviour. Now, 30 years later, Sheela is back in India.
This is where the documentary picks up, as Sheela jumps between interviews on her “tour”, claiming her words and actions in the past were misconstrued and misinterpreted. In fact, she even boldly proclaims that she never pleaded guilty… even though she did.
Sheela outright lies numerous times through these interviews, catching journalists off-guard as she challenges them to come up with a new question. In fact, the film even spins her story slightly to show her as a tragically misunderstood victim. A misunderstood victim who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and poisoning, mind you.
Given how much of a fiery character Ma Anand was in Wild, Wild, Country, her tepid and relaxed mannerisms here translate across to the film as a whole. Quite frankly, Searching For Sheela goes nowhere.
Searching For Sheela is a boring, flatlined movie that displays the same rehashed interviews and the same questions being dodged and avoided. In fact, the only critique comes from a single shot of Instagram where commenters condemn Sheela.
Despite some claims of redemption and condemning those journalists who would tarnish her name, Searching For Sheela searches for answers and comes up short. There’s absolutely nothing of note here and those going into this without watching Wild, Wild Country will be lost.
For those who have seen Netflix’s enthralling docu-series, this will feel like an extended featurette tucked away on the second disk of a DVD. There are a few interesting tidbits but nowhere near enough to recommend an hour documentary that goes nowhere.