WORDS ROHAN PASRICHA
NETFLIX’S LATEST AND GREATEST ALREADY HAS A CULT-LIKE FOLLOWING – IRONIC CONSIDERING IT’S BASED ON ONE
Imagine all the people…living life in peace,” crooned John Lennon but therein lay his folly – he only imagined it. A group of marijuana loving (disputable), red robe sporting (evident), and impromptu chanting (verified) folks decided to create a space – not just with their imagination but also in practice – replete with blood and sweat. And they made it happen, in rather record time; not in the spiritual tourism land of India, but far, far away in the materialistic capital of the world – the United States of America – Antelope, Oregon to be precise. They even managed to change Antelope’s name to Rajneeshpuram, inviting the ire of the otherwise sleepy town’s community. Quite like Lennon, what they claimed to be and what they actually were, contrasted vastly.
When in doubt, flee the country–this seems to be the mantra of most high-profile financial conmen in modern-day India. So little surprise that when the going got tough for the Rajneeshes as they call themselves, they decided to quit and set up camp–rather entire town–in present-day Trumpland. However, I digress. For I do not equate Osho with a conman. A misguided, eloquent philosopher? Maybe. I am still on the fence about what to make of the man. Except that his undying love for Rolls-Royce cars (93 to be precise), was highly disconcerting – especially when you expect supposed enlightened folks to exhibit disdain of such materialism. I would give my two-penny worth here: stay far, far away from a cult. I once lost (not in the death sense) a close friend to one of these groups, but that is another story.
Wild Wild Country starts off on a fairly innocuous note – just a group of happy people looking to create heaven on earth with love, peace, and togetherness. Now, what could possibly go wrong with such noble intentions? Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything! The beauty of this show is that it’s based on events that took place many, many moons ago but it absorbs you in such a way that you’re hooked from the first 10 minutes, constantly anticipating what’s going to unfold next. And like any other crime story, which, let’s face it a lot of this does amount to criminality, what you’re expecting to happen is quite different from what actually does – even though you have a fair idea of how it all ends.
What stood out in this series for me is the amount of actual past footage that the filmmakers managed to amass, hitherto not seen in any other documentary on this topic. This footage is masterfully interspersed with the current lives of the members, in the form of interviews, and you can see how the ex-members have evolved physically and, more importantly, mentally. In some parts it almost feels like you’ve taken a journey with them, feeling their myriad emotions of joy, fear, elation, frustration, confusion, and then some. To achieve a viewing experience like this is no mean feat, and the crew should take a bow. This is one of those series where revealing anything, no matter how minor, would be hara-kiri. So I’ll only refer to one of the final few scenes, where Ma Anand Sheela, the alleged mastermind of the cult, asks the crew to join her for a drink. You’ll feel like she almost read your mind, for to process the last 6 hours, you’ll certainly need one.