By Krithika Varagur / Associated Press
NEW DELHI — Ma Anand Sheela, who helped controversial Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh set up a commune in Oregon in the 1980s and was a subject of the hit Netflix series “Wild Wild Country,” will star in a new documentary shot during her first trip to India in 34 years.
The documentary, produced by Dharmatic Entertainment, the digital content company of major Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, will stream on Netflix India. Its release date is yet to be announced.
Ma Sheela said she visited her family home in western Gujarat state and Rajneesh’s cremation site in the western Indian city of Pune.
“It was an emotional goodbye, because at the time of his death I was nowhere around,” she told The Associated Press.
Ma Sheela, born Sheela Ambalal Patel, is a former convicted felon who was sentenced to 20 years in jail in America for attempted murder, assault, immigration fraud, wiretapping and setting fire to a county office, actions she took as tensions grew between members of the commune and their neighbors in Oregon.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, preached a message of pop psychology and free love that drew about 4,000 followers from around the world to the commune in Oregon from 1981 to 1985. Ma Sheela was his acolyte and then personal secretary. She also directed one of the largest bioterror attacks in U.S. history in 1984, in which more than 750 people in Oregon were given salmonella food poisoning to keep them from voting and influence local elections in the commune’s favor.
Ma Sheela was granted parole after just 39 months due to good behavior. She eventually settled in Switzerland, where she now runs a home for mentally disabled people.
Friday was the last day of her India visit. She was filmed at speeches, backstage, and on the road for the documentary.
In a trailer released by Netflix India, the film is billed as answering the question, “Who was she before Rajneesh?”
Speaking to about 20 fans in New Delhi, mostly young women, Ma Sheela avoided discussing her past and focused on a generic message of empowerment.
“Be yourself is my slogan,” she said. “Stop judging, be friends with yourself.”
But Ma Sheela was unruffled when asked by AP about her past.
“I have nothing to apologize for,” she said.
And of Osho, who once called her a “perfect bitch” when she left the Oregon commune, she said, “I know he’s missing me.”