Film: “Wild Wild Country” Director: Chapman Way and MacLain Way; Rating: **
It is easy to get carried away by the sheer sweep of arguments against Osho aka Acharya Rajneesh, and his religious commune. But this cleverly assembled collage of conversations with people whose lives collided with the Godman, only reads like an exposition on what trouble a cult ‘guru’ can create for God-fearing Catholics in a Western (read progressive) society.
To that extent, this 6-hour exploration of Osho’s mesmeric magnetism only has the questions, sometimes with exclamatory think-alouds from foreigners who are now in the autumn of their lives and can look back with some amusement and much irony at their spiritual enthrallment.
There was none in Osho’s kingdom as enthralled as Ma Sheela. “Wild Wild Country” is actually Ma Sheela’s story as told to us in her own voice. There is much drama and some pathos in her confessions of absolute devotion to a man whom she met for the first time when she was barely out of her teens.
This bizarre fatal attraction is explained through the first-person monologue of the woman who was so infatuated by ‘Bhagwan’ that she couldn’t differentiate between the halo and the hype.
Trapped between the deification and the damning, Rajneesh is hardly the point of this lengthy and admittedly engrossing documentary. The exercise is meant to shed light on the circumstances, often bizarre, which makes a collective surge of human beings so enamoured of a personality that they forget their place in life and all their commitments.
Rajneesh’s journey from Pune to Oregon is never mapped with cogency in this documentary. We have to believe what we are told about him and his sexual interpretation of spiritualism, as manifested in his teachings that his devotees adopted unquestioningly. For us who never knew Rajneesh, the tenets are indigestible. This documentary does nothing to bring us closer to Rajneesh’s teachings.
More than anything else, “Wild Wild Country” is the story of how Osho’s presence changed the entire topography, tempo and economics of a small sleepy town named Oregon in the US.
The documentary cleverly suggests that the arrival of Rajneesh and thousands of his devotees in Oregon was like a circus coming to town. The local townspeople are at first curious, then suspicious and finally hostile to the strangers who have taken over their town.
Who was Rajneesh? What was the message of spiritual awakening that he taught his disciples? And why did so many bhakts simply accept what he offered?
“Wild Wild Country”, for all its unspoken claims of internal knowledge and some rare footage of Rajneesh’s disciples in Pune and Oregon, offers no answers. In that sense, it remains as inconclusive as the teachings of the Godman whom it tries to decode through conversations with people who fell for him.
This documentary, alas, is not half as magnetic as its subject.