Movies to a monk, story of Barkha Madan & the inspiration behind Surkhaab

Renouncing the suite life that came with being a Bollywood actor, Barkha Madan chose instead to be a monk.  Starting out playing the poltergeist in the  film “Bhoot”, this actress turned Lama is now taking forward the agenda of spirituality in her real life too. But not without fulfilling a certain unfinished business in her soon-to-be past life. Barkha sat herself in the director’s chair and donned the actor’s role one last time to create “Surkhaab” a tale of a woman who illegally migrates to Canada to be with her younger brother. In this exclusive interview with Binjal Shah for ShethePeople.TV, she tells us why she hopes to make the last one count, before she embarks upon her  journey of self-exploration:


 1.     So, what unfinished business are you fulfilling with your last worldly venture, in the form of Surkhaab?

Surkhaab is making its flight back home. We showcased the film in various film festivals, won many accolades and awards. In 2014  Surkhaab had a successful release in U.S.A with a popular theatre chain AMC. Since it is homecoming for Surkhaab, I am simply fulfilling my commitment towards it as an actor/co-producer. Moreover the subject of the film is something I stand for. If the film makes profits, I can utilize that money to help in various projects of my Guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche.


2.     What were the most special moments during the filming of Surkhaab? Is your last cinematic exploit just the way you had imagined it?

We shot Surkhaab in 25 days. First schedule of 15 days was in Toronto and second one was for 10 days in Punjab. While we were there, we learnt that the Toronto Waterfront Marathon was going to take place, in which the oldest Marathon runner Fauja Singh would be participating too. So we decided to pre-pone the shoot by one day. The marathon became a part of a scene and in the entire film Toronto city is a not just a backdrop by an integral part of the story. I don’t think it has ever been done before.

One moment of reminiscence was, when I was at The Niagara falls. I had shot my first film here and I was here again with my first film as a producer. Then who would have known that this would be my last film as an actor.

And one OMG moment; we shooting a scene in the back alley where, Jeet (my character) is being mugged and harassed, as a part of the scene I was screaming for help. Suddenly we heard police sirens and five cop cars came to the location and straight away took to the action. Of course, they soon understood that it was not real. Later we all had a good laugh.

Surkhaab is a result of a great team effort. I cannot attribute the vision to just one person. With all the available resources of talent and crew of only ten people, I am very satisfied with the product.



Barkha Sadan


3.     From fulfilling your glamour-goals, to having them make way for your spiritual goals. What were the milestones that shaped this incredible journey of self-exploration? We’d love for you to take us through the facets of it most dear to you- that have brought you where you are today.


My journey as a monastic has just begun. There were many incredible experiences that led to this decision. One of them was a meeting with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, at a public teaching. I thought to myself how could someone be so much at peace and full of love, smiling in the most adverse situations.

I had this gnawing question all the time, what is the true purpose of myself. What is freedom? What am I seeking freedom from? As I explored more of Buddhist philosophy, I found my answers and due to the kindness of my root Guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche and my mentor Ven. RobinaCourtin, and gradually the seed of renunciation sprouted.


 4. Seeing that you have championed women empowerment and do feel strongly about it- have you drawn any parallels between Buddhism and Feminism i.e. egalitarianism? What can the women’s movement learn from your adoption of this new faith?


Yes, I do feel strongly about women empowerment. The fundamental of Buddha Dharma is based on love, compassion, and equanimity. For that matter whether you believe this religion or that religion, we human beings are equal, who need to learn to co-exist. With fear, harmony is impossible. We need trust. Trust is the basis of compassion. Distrust brings fear. Fear brings violence. Fear brings loneliness and depression. We all come from the same place. We have to learn to respect the source.

Sometimes the Feminist groups display too much emotion and male bashing, then I feel that the motivation is weak and defocused.

I leave you with a quote from His Holiness, The Dalai Lama to ponder over

“I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights”.

Sometimes the Feminist groups display too much emotion and male bashing, then I feel that the motivation is weak and defocused.


5.      As “The Monk Who Sold Her Film Career” which is what you have been christened as, what are some pieces of Advice you would like to impart to to your ex-colleagues in Bollywood? And to women on their journeys of self-exploration?

 (Laughs) I think it is used, as it seems catchy.

Who am I to give advice to anyone…take it as a request instead. I would like my friends and ex-colleagues to take a moment to reflect that everything is impermanent so please REJOICE in what you have and do.

And I would like to share a quote from Gautama Buddha that helped me, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting.”

This stands true for any one, irrespective of the gender.