Rajneesh was a pleasure-peddler, an entertainer par-excellence, and a wordsmith. Netflix series Wild Wild Country feeds on that star power of his.
“Check out Wild Wild Country on Netflix, it is a documentary on a man who dared to play God, Osho,” said a message on WhatApp.
What prompted me to watch the six-part opera, so lavishly put together at such huge cost, was this: The person who was recommending it was a filmmaker who makes a living in the epicentre of the entertainment world, Hollywood. Who, apart from being a dear friend, also dared to go along with me to the doors of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh for enlightenment in Koregaon Park, Pune, in the mid-1970s.
Why would a disillusioned sannyasi recommend this series to me? I wondered if he didn’t feel the series has a brave perspective about the man and his tragic fall. But it made me curious enough to click. Even before the opening credits began to roll, I was certain that the movie had a new perspective on Osho and his fall.
Netflix is the new circus in the town. Everybody these days opens his or her conversation by asking, “Did you watch so and so series on Netflix?” My American filmmaker friend says the entertainment consumption has drastically changed in the United States. The world today has been struck by the tsunami of digital entertainment content. To stand out in such an atmosphere is not an easy task. And this monster called Netflix is growing bigger and bigger, on the hour, by the hour.
Hats off to the makers of Wild Wild Country for making their presence felt in such an environment. To put it simply in the Bollywood jargon, Wild Wild Country is a smash hit.
Having raved enough about Netflix and Wild Wild Country, let’s now get down and do some serious talking.
Does the editorial of Wild Wild Country take an audacious perspective on the legacy of the controversial man? No, is my answer. It consciously takes a character like Osho, who is globally known as the ‘sex guru’, and then demonises him and celebrates his fall. By doing that, it endorses, defends, and perpetuates the middle-class value system, which is the heartbeat of mass entertainment products globally.
Therefore, it fails to achieve what it pretends to. The fall of a larger-than-life character has always filled the average man with a kinky delight. We love watching lofty structures being pygmied, collapsing and turning to dust. The fall of Osho has entertained the world for quite some time now. Wild Wild Country does just that.
To me, the most refreshing aspect of this six-episode show is not Osho but Sheela, who was the high priestess of that spiritual whorehouse. I knew Sheela in my turbulent twenties: She was a charming, attractive Gujratan, whom I could never imagine rising to such dizzying heights. Her frail, withered form and the manner in which she lived through her rise and rise, and then her fall and fall, kept me riveted to the series.
Seeing ‘God’ himself handcuffed and stripped of his regal robes may have filled people with delight. But to me, those images were a confirmation that if you dared to cross swords with the swashbuckling state of America, it would do everything in the book to humiliate and beat you to pulp.
The fall of Rajneesh gave billions of people some perverse delight. I too was once a part of that bogus, enlightenment-seeking cult, and had dared to walk out of his paradise, flushing his mala down my toilet, especially when I was a nobody. I thought those images in the series pandered to the sadistic impulse, which is hardwired in the so-called self-proclaimed “good people”, who are too petrified to step out of their conformist existence.
Rajneesh was a great success story. He had guts. But at the end of the day, he was a mere pleasure-peddler, an entertainer par-excellence, a wordsmith who took his followers to the promised land but couldn’t open the doors of heaven for them.
In the spiritual super-bazaar, his wares still sell. That speaks volumes about his star power. And Wild Wild Country feeds on that star power of his.
There is a need in people to look for spiritual solace. Gurus play a social role, and so do prostitutes.
Mahesh Bhatt is a film maker in Mumbai and a former member of the Osho commune in Pune.