Glimpses into the life of the controversial 'guru'

Times of India/December 21, 2003

From black slippers, an ordinary watch and an unstitched white cloth to Rolls Royces, diamond-studded Swiss watches, rich flowing gowns and Gucci goggles. This is the story of Osho, who first came into the limelight as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

For the first time ever, the Osho Commune International here has organised a public screening of rare film and video footage providing extraordinary glimpses into the public and private life of the late controversial mystic (1931-1990). The commune will be screening a series of 14 films on Osho, ranging in duration from 25 minutes to an hour, during the Osho Film Festival from January 3-18.

The films capture the gradual transformation of Rajneesh over the 30 years of his public life (1960-1990) from Acharya to Bhagwan and then Osho, his earliest lectures in Mumbai and the birth of the Rajneesh "Ashram" in Pune. The films also depict the time when Rajneesh began embracing the comforts of life after staying briefly at the residence of a rich disciple at Woodlands Apartment, Peddar Road (Mumbai), and after the trickling in of his foreign disciples.

The shifting of the commune from Pune to Oregon , USA , in 1981, his expulsion from America that was followed by a 21-nation tour in his private jet and his eventual return to Pune in 1987 are among the events chronicled in the documentaries. While The Rising Moon documentary is based on archival material from 1968 to 1975, showing the arrival of his foreign disciples, Death - the Greatest Fiction is devoted to his philosophy on death.

This film, as with some others, carries footage of the celebration that followed his death in Pune on January 19, 1990 . "This is the first time ever that we are showing these films. A lot of people are curious and we expect large crowds at the festival," Amrit Sadhana, a member of the commune's "management team", said while speaking to TNN. The main feature of the festival is rarely seen footage of Osho, said Lolita, an American follower, who organised the festival after going through 5,000 videos in the Osho archive.

Osho's death in 1990, in Pune, was closely guarded by his followers. He left behind vast wealth, which is now controlled by a number of trusts headed by his followers. With a penchant for attracting controversies, Osho was dubbed as a "sex guru" by the media even as he gave captivating discourses, invented meditation techniques and spoke openly against traditional religions.

As is seen through the films, the earliest followers of this exprofessor of philosophy at Sagar University , Jabalpur , were Indians who stood by him when he delivered his first controversial discourse, "From Sex to Superconsciousness" at Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, in the 1960s.

Rajneesh's earliest discourses while sitting on a simple wooden platform at the Palm Beach high school, Mumbai, in 1968 show the firm following that he had in those initial years - a number of Gujarati, Maharashtrian and north Indian men and women. Bald, with deep piercing eyes and a black, flowing beard, images of Rajneesh conducting his earliest "Dynamic" and "Kundalini" meditation camps are fascinating in The Rising Moon documentary.

The documentaries show his shifting from Mumbai to Pune as he travelled on the Mumbai-Pune highway in a flower-bedecked Impala car in 1974. His new address was 17, Koregaon Park. As the number of his foreign disciples increased steadily, Osho began using a Rolls Royce instead of a Fiat or an Impala. He also replaced his white garb of an Acharya and "Bhagwan" with rich, flowing robes and a cap, a diamond-studded watch and designer goggles.

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