“My Naam Is Sheela, Sheela Ki Kahaani” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Searching For Sheela (Netflix, Documentary)

This is a 58-minute journey with Ma Anand Sheela which says more about the people around her, journalists and socialites she meets during her first visit to India in 35 years who are seen gushing fawning and ingratiating themselves with mine-is-bigger-than-your comparisons of her notoriety with theirs.

So we have journalists Shoma Choudhury victim-shaming herself in front of a bemused Ma Sheila by talking about her own disgrace and ostracization (she was disgraced media baron Tarun Tejpal’s most trusted lieutenant).

“I am without shame,” Ma Sheela confesses, and both the women giggle conspiratorially. Right on, Sisters.

It is huge fun watching Ma Sheela’s fawn-a-friend encounters in India. Socialite Bina Ramani tries her sisterly solidarity act amidst soft sips of champagne, by bringing up her brush with the law after Jessica Lal’s murder.

“We’ve all been arrested at some point,” Bina Ramani’s daughter chips in darting a look of cute kinship at Ma Sheela who must have laughed her head off once back in the privacy of her hotel room.

Another hilarious media encounter is the one with Barkha Dutt who goads Ma Sheela to get angry with Osho for disowning her so rudely (“I don’t love prostitutes,” he’s heard declaring when asked if he loved Ma Sheela).

Not biting Barkha’s bait Sheela ripostes, “I am not going to satisfy you.”

To be honest this documentary doesn’t satisfy any of our curiosity about the real Ma Sheela. Who is she? Has she completely forgotten all her crimes as defence mechanism against the enormity of what she has done? Or is she acting all the time? Playing this simple girl from Gujarat who fell head over heels with this Godman, came under his spell, and never snapped out of it?

The encounters we see in the documentary, tongue-in-cheek as they are, say nothing about Ma Sheela except that she can be really hilarious when she wants. At one point she is heard telling the media that she never had sex with Osho, that she preferred his mind to his penis.

Copy that.

We have to grant it to this astonishing woman: she is an enigma that this documentary cannot crack. What it does do is show us how the Page 3 type function in our country with their shallow shindings and pretensions of transmuting crime into self-actualization. All they wanted was a selfie with the super-controversial woman. Ma Sheela obliges.

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