Priyanka Chopra will star in Amazon Prime Video’s new drama titled Sheela, which will chronicle the life of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh aka Osho’s personal secretary-turned-convicted bio-terrorist Ma Anand Sheela. According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, the film will be directed by Barry Levinson.
The filmmaker will also produce Sheela under his banner Baltimore Pictures, along with Permut Presentations’ David Permut, Jason Sosnoff, and Priyanka’s production house Purple Pebble Pictures.
Interestingly, while Amazon Prime Video is making a film on Ma Anand Sheela, its competitor Netflix, is making a documentary which traces her life. The Netflix documentary will feature Ma Anand Sheela herself.
Born in Gujarat as Sheela Ambalal Patel, Ma Anand Sheela served as Osho’s personal secretary between 1981 and 1985, and helped him set up the Rajneeshpuram commune in Oregon. She was convicted in the 1984 bio-terror attack in Oregon, in which over 750 people contracted salmonella after salad bars at local restaurants were poisoned, in order to incapacitate voters and rig a local election.
Ma Anand Sheela has earlier said that she does not approve Priyanka portraying her on screen and even sent her a legal notice. In an interview with Hindustan Times, she said, “I told her I do not give her permission to do [the] film because I have not chosen her… In Switzerland, we send legal notices very simply. I sent her an email which is accepted there as legal.”
She added that she never got a response from the actor’s team. “Not even a courtesy letter that they received my notice but that’s not an issue, maybe she never had the opportunity to meet me or make time to meet me and it is no big issue… not everybody has the time to meet me,” she said.
Ma Anand Sheela would like Alia Bhatt to play her, as she feels that the 26-year-old actor has the necessary “spunk”. She told Hindustan Times, “I feel she has the spunk in her that I had. Spunk is very necessary and it is very natural, it is not artificial, not cosmetic, it is genuine.”
On the sidelines of a recent awards show, Alia said that if Ma Anand Sheela finds her “worthy” of playing her on screen, she feels “very honoured and grateful”. She also said that she would be happy to do the film if it is made and offered to her.