7:30am PT by Jean Bentley
'Wild Wild Country' Controversial Subject Ma Anand Sheela: "I Have Nothing to Regret"
Brothers Maclain and Chapman Way have done plenty of interviews about their Netflix documentary series, Wild Wild Country, since its release, but the six-parter's most controversial figure, Ma Anand Sheela, has not discussed why she agreed to be interviewed for the project — until Tuesday night, when she joined the Ways and producer Mark Duplass via video for a panel at Netflix's FYSee event space.
The series chronicles the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, a commune founded in the early 1980s by the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (and Sheela, his personal secretary) in rural Oregon, and the clash between Rajneeshees and the locals that ended in mass poisoning, arson, wiretapping and more.
The brothers interviewed Sheela in her new homeland of Switzerland for five days, and they said she gave them no restrictions as to what they could ask her.
"We never discussed what the final product would be," she explained. "It was open communication. I had no idea of what prejudices they were coming to me [with]. I had no idea of what other people they were interviewing. I was not informed in that sense, and even if I was informed it would not matter. For me, my side is very clear. For me, I know who I am and what I did. I do not have to justify to anyone and this massive experience cannot be kept quiet either."
Though Sheela was never asked about any specific actions she took (she served 29 months in prison after being convicted of multiple crimes), she maintained throughout the Q&A that she did not have any regrets about her past. The conversation mainly touched on her own reaction to the series — she fast-forwarded through her own interviews, since she already knew what she'd said — and the reaction she's been getting since its release.
"I’m getting a lot of extra work now and a piece of my life has been disturbed but I have been getting lots of positive responses," she said. "People feel inspired with my convictions, with my willingness to protect the community and Bhagwan."
She also was pleased with her newfound popularity online, and how people have viewed her as a strong character.
"I’m happy that, through me, the attention to females has been given," she said. "Through me, it is again becoming important not to discriminate against gender or color or religion. From that point of view, I'm very happy about it and I have nothing to regret. I had a wonderful life there. I still have a wonderful life, and I thank existence for it."
The Way brothers admitted they were nervous when they first traveled to Europe to interview Sheela — "If I had known it I would have made them more nervous," she joked — but they also knew that she planned to answer whatever questions they asked of her.
"It was a beautiful life I have lived. It is a life that I have learned a great deal. This experience that I have had, it was one in a million," she said. "There is nothing that I can say that would stop me from talking. For me it is [a] life enriching experience and one should not hide such experiences or be afraid to talk about it."