Private Project

Soch Samaj Chal

Barkhagiri Baba was a holy man who lived high in the Himalayan mountains in India for over ninety years. As a renunciate Hindu monk, he lived off altruistically. While he lived off the land, without electricity, in handcrafted stone and mud, he provided shelter to rescued animals, strangers, and fellow nomads searching for a spiritual haven. His mantra: Soch Samaj Chal — think, understand, move — was a quiet revolution, a petition for stillness, solitude, and constant compassion against the world's chaos. Barkhagiri Baba gave nothing but love to the world for his whole life, and in 2021, his spirit finally left his body while sitting in peaceful meditation.

  • Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
  • Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
  • Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
  • Late Shri Barkhagiri Baba
    Key Cast
  • Saranya Nayak
  • Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
  • Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Biopic, nature, religion, animals, peace, spirituality, life, himalayas, sadhus, nagababa, travel
  • Runtime:
    11 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 29, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Saraswathi 'Vani' Balgam
Director Statement

I grew up in Madras and Mumbai as a young kid. I was eager and restless to discover my life's purpose on this earth. I wanted to be a filmmaker, I was told that there was no space for a female to be creative or a director . I was mostly producing VFX for bollywood films which helped me stay close to my passion and helped me pay my bills. .
I am passionate about slice of life experiences. That brings us closer to our true self.
My vision for this film was to capture material about Bharkagiri Baba and weave a poetic film, silent film, observational and reflexive. I want the visuals to help my viewers simply observe him, like I did. I have been going to the same place for 21 years of my life.
I am the best person to share his compassion with the world. Everything today is so focused on consumerism. To have a “GURU” has become fashionable. In these times where its hard to trust people, I had spent 21 years , every year I would walk up and give a life off the grid. I am a seeker. I believe that what you seek, is seeking you.

In 1999 around the time of the kargil crisis, I had an urge to travel to the Himalayas. My parents were beginning to be on the lookout for a suitable boy for me to get me married to. I told my father I wanted to travel to the Himalayas by myself to search for my truth. It was unheard of for an Indian father to let his unmarried daughter go off into the northern Indian Himalayan mountains alone in 1999. But my father gave 3000 Indian rupees for my travels and asked me to be safe.

I stayed there in the Himalayas for over three months. During my stay, I met my guru that would shape my life and the subject of this film, Barkhagiri Baba. In the last 21 years I have known him, he repeated over and over how we need to bring awareness into our actions. SOCH SAMAJ CHAL” was his go to phrase for everything in life.

He lived in a forest in UTTARAKHAND - GADWAL and he was a NAGA SADHU. He was almost seventy years old when I met him.

He was a holy man that lived deep in the Himalayas for most of his life, surrounded by nature and animals. His generous spirit, vulnerability, and love towards everything and everyone that touched his path opened my heart and stirred my soul. He made me see the world through new eyes and discover the light within .

Over the next 21 years, I visited Barkhagiri Baba in the Himalayas once a year and grew to share a deeply spiritual bond. I visited him in Kalishila for the next ten years to create Soch Samaj Chal, a delicate portrait of his life. I lived in the Himalayas with him, sometimes for days, weeks, months at a time. I filmed him in the snow, the rain, the sunshine. I walked three kilometers up and down the mountain to recharge my camera and gear. As a female filmmaker, the local villagers were not pleased by my presence and questioned my intentions. But I didn't impose or intrude. I simply wanted to capture this holy man witnessing nature, living quietly without hunger, and holding the world in his heart.

Barkhagiri Baba approached life with selfless generosity, childlike wonder, and quiet autonomy. He lived off the land without electricity; he grew spinach and potatoes in his small community garden; he cooked off the fire one meal a day utilizing the land's seasonal crops. Once a year, Barkhagiri Baba would venture into the village to beg for alms, and whatever donations he received would go to feeding the travelers and animals in his care. But his gentile and giving nature could often be misunderstood. While he strived to live in calm seclusion, many people from surrounding villages rejected and resented his way of life; they demanded his presence, participation, and opinion in local politics. When Barkhagiri Baba tried to remain impartial and diplomatic in times of conflict, some villagers became so outraged by his peaceful neutrality that they threatened his life and even poisoned him.

These hardships never shook Barkhagiri Baba's faith or way of life. During our many conversations, Barkhagiri Baba often returned to these three words – Soch Samaj Chal. Think. Understand. Move. Sit and think your way through your feelings. Come to understand your deepest desires and discomforts. And then move deliberately and mindfully with that understanding. But 'Move' didn't mean anything physical or tangible; it was about the movement of the mind, the direction you are taking. He lived by these three words, finding strength and empathy in every adversity and providing a safe space for sweet therapeutic vulnerability to everyone who crossed his path.

Unfortunately, he never got to see the film; he died last year. Due to the pandemic, I couldn't reach India in time before his spirit left his body. I am so grateful to be able to share the everlasting portrayal of a genuine guru who spent a lifetime giving love and light to humanity — and didn't ask for anything in return. And through his friendship, guidance, and this film, I found my truth. Soch Samaj Chal. Think. Understand. Move.