The former actor/ model/ producer, Barkha Madan, gets candid about her role in Sanjay Talreja’s Surkhaab which is going to be her last film as an actor and her journey from a career in the entertainment industry to becoming a Nun.


Barkha Madan

How will you describe this phase of your life, without the suffixes of nun/actor/ producer?

This current stage of my life is called happiness. I am able to understand and feel happiness in the true sense while fulfilling my duty as a nun. Being a human and a nun go hand in hand, they are inseparable. I am walking the path I always wanted to, whether I achieve the further stage is unknown. How do I feel doing so? Well, I feel joy and peace in all its superlative forms. I am happy!

While shooting for Surkhaab did you somewhere know that this will be your last film as an actor?

No, it wasn’t a pre-planned decision rather a gradual one. I had not planned my ordination (oath taking ceremony of nun/monk). I had this thought in my mind that sometime in my life I definitely will take this path but didn’t know when that moment would come. After finishing the film, when I returned from Canada, I met my guru and consulted him. I asked him when could I become a nun and he replied, ‘tomorrow if you want!’ (Smiles) Though I can’t pinpoint a certain moment which led to my decision, I believe it was a subtle progression, one thing lead to the other naturally.

For actors, acting itself acts as therapy. Did you ever feel that connection or were able to touch that facet of acting?

Most definitely. Many times. I was in fact enjoying being on the sets. The state of the character and its situations affect you in every way. The emotions you go through as a character definitely act as therapy. Though this is something that I learned later in my career, not in the beginning. In the early days of my career it was more like entering a candy store, everything seemed, ‘Wow’. I had come from a very sheltered Army background and the film world was a different world altogether. But eventually I started enjoying the work I was doing and felt more relaxed.

How did you relate to your character Jeet in Surkhaab? Why did you choose to be her?

I relate to Jeet in many ways. Sometimes when you talk about a strong woman, she has to be this urban, chic, modern looking woman. And here was Jeet, a state level judo champion, completely different in every way, who emerged stronger than anyone else. A small town Punjabi girl with good values, ready to take on the world. I have personally traveled a lot across the world and Jeet has travelled only within the country that too only for her tournaments. It was challenging to unlearn everything I was as a person, as a travelled woman, and bring that rawness in my approach to everything new that Jeet saw along her way. She becomes a victim of human trafficking which is a scary thing. When you are going to countries like Canada, Australia, UK et al, especially as a third world country citizen, you have certain starry expectations and aspirations looking for a good life but as soon as you land up there you are packaged and dropped in the sludge. All her situations and characteristics made for an interesting and compelling character to play.

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How did you land up making Surkhaab?

The team didn’t find me, I found the team. Vivek (Producing Partner) and I are friends. And the Director, Sanjay Talreja, was known to Vivek. Sanjay had made a documentary on the same subject which he presented to us as the story idea and we liked it. So he started working on the story and we took it from there. The interesting part was that once the shoot was completed, I was in Mumbai, Vivek was in San Fransisco and Sanjay was in Toronto. We were in different parts of the world, making the film on our laptops and through Skype. The film you see is a result of it.

Having been in front of the camera and also behind it, does the idea of going back to it ever cross your mind? Is there a possibility that you will be back to making films and the glamor?

I don’t miss being an actor at all. After having worked for so many years in the industry, seen it all, the success, the failures, the luxury and everything related to the glamorous and not so glamorous part of it, what more experience can I squeeze in from it? It’s a pretty long innings that I have played, especially when you are doing daily soaps which seem never ending. I don’t think I want to go back, I am happy being where I am right now. Honestly that part of my life was a means to an end. What I am doing now has so much more grounding to it. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

So did the entertainment industry contribute to your decision to move beyond it and live life as a nun?

Yes. Your experiences in life shape your decisions. While I was acting, I was also studying the philosophy of Buddhism for quite sometime. The philosophy talks about karma, changes, sufferings in a human being’s life. Even when you have the best of the world, your mind still craves for something more. This dissatisfaction moulds your mind too.  In our film world we are always thinking about – what more can happen? You have everything yet you are looking for more. You aren’t happy in front of or behind the camera. And then you go for retreats to feel fresh and alive. I kept studying, going for retreats and regularly taking time off. After coming back to the mundane life I would feel that whatever I have learned in the retreats is true; the things the gurus spoke of – the sufferings, attachments etc., apply to my life as well.

When you were an actor, was there any special character you yearned to play onscreen?

Not one, but many. To name a few – Tabu’s character in The Namesake was beautiful. I wish I had done it. And of course, Rekhaji’s character in Silsila, I’ve always been her fan. But yes, they don’t make such films anymore. Then all the roles that Preity Zinta did, especially her role in Dil Chahta Hai.

Sanjay Talreja’s Surkhaab releases in cinemas on May 22, 2015