Ma Anand Sheela, also known as Sheela Biernstiel, is an Indian-born Swiss national who was the former secretary of late Indian godman Bhagwan Rajneesh, aka Osho, and spokesperson for the Rajneesh movement. She worked with Osho to establish a utopian city named Rajneeshpuram in Oregon for his followers.
She was convicted in the 1984 Rajneesh Bioterror attack in Oregon and was also accused of arson, wiretapping, attempted murder, and mass poisonings. She was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and was paroled after serving 39 months on terms of exhibiting good behaviour.
The documentary is produced by director-producer Karan Johar‘s Dharmatic Entertainment.
According to Netflix, the documentary will focus on Sheela’s “homecoming” to India after 34 years of exile.
History wasn’t written for her, but she’s here to tell her story now.#SearchingForSheela@karanjohar @apoorvamehta18 #MaAnandSheela @shakunbatra @aneeshabaig @dharmatic_ #jouskafilms pic.twitter.com/IuWyj4bGnJ
— Netflix India (@NetflixIndia) April 12, 2021
In a statement, Sheela said that the documentary will give a glimpse of her life and its evolution over the last 40 years.
The film’s executive producer Shakun Batra said that the documentary was “not an investigative piece” but an observation of a person with a questionable past and how she grapples with society’s expectations of an ex-convict and attempts to re-brand the public opinion of herself.
In 2019, Johar had interviewed Sheela during her first visit to India in over three decades, following which Netflix announced that Sheela will star in a new documentary on their platform. Priyanka Chopra Jonas had announced on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she will be starring in Sheela’s biopic which will be directed by Barry Levinson. However, Sheela later revealed that she didn’t give Chopra Jonas permission for the film and had sent a legal notice. She added that she preferred Alia Bhat to essay her role instead.
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In 2018, Netflix released a documentary titled Wild Wild Country that focused on the controversial godman Osho, his close aid Sheela and the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram. Following the development, there were rumours that Aamir Khan had been approached to play the role of Osho.