I was at the Ranch in ’84 and ’85, and published a book on Osho in 2010 (‘The Three Dangerous Magi’). And I’ve now watched all 6 episodes of ‘Wild Wild Country’.
The documentary is put together with professional skill and talent. It’s very watchable. The pace is a bit on the quick side, consistent with the reduced attention spans of current audiences. But it avoids any dumbing-down tendencies. The real ‘gem’ of the documentary is the archival footage that the filmmakers were offered to use — hours and hours of it, much if it detailing with startling accuracy what was going on, a kind of time-machine back to the early 1980s.
The major weakness of the documentary — something that has been touched on by others I know who’ve watched it but have no background with Osho — is the lack of groundwork laid out explaining just *why* Osho was such a draw in the first place. This lack of groundwork becomes understandable when you bear in mind that the two filmmakers are very young (32 and 27) and until 2014 they had never heard of Osho. It’s not possible to grasp Osho in a year or two of intense study, so it’s remarkable that they were able to produce a documentary of this caliber at all.
The other problem is that the filmmakers made reference to the ‘two sides’ getting equal airtime in the show (which, arguably, they did). However, there were not ‘two sides’. There was three — the American government, Sheela’s clique, and the Lao Tzu house residents. What the documentary lacked was any real insight shared by the latter group. What would have rounded it all out a bit more would have been some interviews with George Meredith (Devaraj) or Juliet Foreman (Maneesha).
That said, I think it was something of a stroke of genius to give Sheela and Shanti Bhadra the interview time that they did, because it really made for the ‘alchemical conjunction of opposites’ to play out. Always more interesting when you have the contrasts from opposites, as they make each other more vivid just by standing together. The moon shines brightest when opposite from the sun. In that sense, I think this documentary is more effective for sannyasins to watch than it is for newcomers. The latter will be entertained, for sure, but will gain little in understanding Osho. But for sannyasins, the views into Sheela’s mind are revealing and for me at least, filled in some key blanks to the whole story.
For me, the most disturbing moment probably came when listening to Shanti Bhadra talked about her attempted murder of Devaraj, and how she performed this act without empathy and driven by her emotional allegiance to Sheela. And all of this was based on some audio tapes Sheela heard of what she thought was Osho and Devaraj planning some sort of suicide for Osho. You really see that this was where Sheela was breaking down. The woman needed therapy and support but wielded too much power for others to see or act on that.
The other thing that has been pointed out by some reviewers from various print journals and which I think absolutely bears repeating, is just how fixed the major prayers remain in their views, reminding me of Yeats’ famous line, ‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’ I met so many quality sannyasins over the years who were humble, quiet, true representatives of what Osho was supposedly standing for all that time. And yet the loud ones are all that are remembered.
In fact, Yeats’ whole stanza, written in 1919, was strangely foreshadowing of Rajneeshpuram.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
M.T. Mistlberger: (Teertha) (Author of the Three Dangerous Magi: published 2010)