Barefoot to Goa (2013): Praveen Morchhale's indie film about moribund human bonds and decaying moral values

A social commentary on the great rural-urban divide in India 

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Barefoot to Goa, Poster, Directed by Praveen Morchhale
Barefoot to Goa (2013) By Praveen Morchhale
Our Rating: 9.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.2
Genre: Adventure | Drama  | Family
CastFarrukh Jaffar, Purva Parag, Saara Nahar
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 80 min
Color: Color

Summary: When faraway living 75 year old happy but lonely lady, who is fighting with cancer and incapable to speak, wishes to see her grandchildren but goes unheard repeatedly, her small grandchildren defies uncaring parents and secretly undertake a long journey to save her.

Barefoot to Goa is an indie film written, directed and co-produced by a Mumbai-based filmmaker named Praveen Morchhale. Morchhale’s debut film, Barefoot to Goa was in competition at the 2013 Mumbai Film Festival in its Celebrate Age section. On the face of it, Morchhale’s film is a tale of two siblings, an eleven year old brother and his nine year old precocious sister, who witness the loss of innocence during a life-changing road trip they undertake, stepping out of their cocooned environment for the very first time in their lives, in order to meet their ailing, abandoned grandmother. But, in its essence, Barefoot to Goa is a social commentary on the great rural-urban divide in India. Morchhale limns a vivid canvas to depict the dichotomy between the two Indias and the manner in which their inhabitants think, behave, act, and live. How a selfish daughter-in-law living in the comfort of a middleclass urban settlement deliberately tries to cut all the ties between her husband and his aging mother. How a destitute, deaf-and-dumb rural couple selflessly shower their hospitality on total strangers.


Grandmother prepares sweets for her son in Barefoot to Goa, Directed by Praveen Morchhale
The grandmother prepares some sweets for her son
Barefoot to Goa closely examines, through its characters, the three different stages of the human life-cycle: childhood, middle-age  and dotage. It's a cinematic essay that celebrates the innocence of the young, mocks the indifference of the grown ups, and mourns the loneliness of the old. Morchhale’s film serves to be a parable on the moribund human bonds in a fast-paced world. As an exemplum of our urban society's moral and cultural decadence, Barefoot to Goa is a warning that poignantly highlights the futility of life and death. And, yet, it's a movie that's full of hope for the whole of mankind. In its short runtime of 80 minutes, the movie touches upon several complex motifs that deal with life and humanity at large. It is for all these reasons that one just cannot regard Barefoot to Goa as a run-of-the-mill children's film.      

The Children/kids take a bike ride en route to Goa, journey to meet their grandmother, in Barefoot to Goa, Directed by Praveen Morchhale
The kids take a bike ride in Barefoot to Goa
Barefoot to Goa inevitably brings to one’s mind the 1955 Satyajit Ray masterpiece Pather Panchali, which, like Morchhale’s film, revolved around two young siblings who experience loss of innocence while struggling to come to terms with the hard realities of life. Morchhale, like Ray, not only chooses a subject that’s quite difficult to market but also treats it in a manner that’s breathtakingly refreshing. While Ray’s work was an adaptation of a popular Bengali novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Barefoot to Goa is based on an original screenplay by Morchhale himself. Morchhale's bold move to make non-actors play pivotal roles in the movie reminds one of Italian Neorealist gems like The Bicycle Thief. All this as well as the fact that Morchhale shows courage to make such a different film at a time when Indian cinema finds itself at the crossroads—while it’s been doing really well commercially, it’s clearly been left far behind, whether in terms of quality or the laurels received in the international arena—makes his effort a very special one.

Kids spend a night in the village looking at the stars, in Barefoot to Goa, Directed by Praveen Morchhale
The urban kids spend a night in the village
Whenever one talks of the 21st century avant-garde cinema, it's imperative that one talks about independent filmmakers. Buoyed by their inexorable passion for cinema and undeterred by the paucity of resources, this tenacious breed of artists has been instrumental to the constant evolution of cinema in today’s age of commercialization. And the onus truly lies with all those who understand and appreciate cinema to shower praise on this ingenious brigade of filmmakers by celebrating their sui generis works of cinema. In the recent years Hindi cinema has seen a resurgence of a parallel stream of filmmaking that seems to have blurred the line between the mainstream and the art house cinema. Today, the independent filmmakers are being actively backed by established production houses committed to improving the quality of cinema in India, a trend which has given rise to films like Dhobi Ghat, Paan Singh Tomar, Ship of Theseus, Lootera, The Lunchbox, etc. Barefoot to Goa, even though it is not funded by any big production house, in the opinion of this critic, is the crowning jewel of this new avant-garde movement in Hindi cinema.


Grandmother looks pensively as the reader types the letter to her son, Barefoot to Goa, Directed by Praveen Morchhale
A Still from Barefoot to Goa
Overall, Barefoot to Goa is a profound work of cinema that needs to be watched by everyone who loves and admires filmmaking that’s both honest and pristine. Morchhale’s film can be deemed brilliant on both the technical and emotional fronts, especially given the budget constraints that one often associates with an indie feature film. Morchhale uses minimal dialogue and mostly relies on his powerful imagery to convey the message to his audience. The characters written by Morchhale are quite memorable and the actors who play them help them bring to life. Morchhale needs to be commended for eliciting such convincing performances from his actors, especially the two young leads who play siblings. The road trip that the two kids take comes across as such a rich and powerful experience for the viewers that some of the scenes are likely to stay with them for ever. The soothing music written by the team of Jack Francis and Rohit Shama immensely adds to the movie’s poignant feel. Ujjwal Chandra’s editing is topnotch and the same can be said of the John Breakmas Kerketta’s breathtaking cinematography. Barefoot to Goa can definitely prove to be a cathartic experience for those on the lookout for something to soothe their senses. While an average moviegoer may fail to appreciate the movie, the intelligent viewer will savor the food for thought which it offers in plenty. 

Note: For a more recent review of Barefoot to Goa, please click here.

P.S.: This review was also published by the author in Frontier Weekly, Kolkata, Vol. 46, No. 28, Jan 19 -25, 2014.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

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5 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good movie to watch. Will look for it. Thanks for a thorough review!

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  2. Glad you liked the review... the movie is indeed very well made... Morchhale and team deserve all the credit!!!

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  3. gonna watch.....sounds good :)

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  4. I like the way you have compared "Barefoot to Goa" to "Pather Panchali" and Neo-realist dramas. This film has a original screenplay and a great cast. I hope the movie gets its due credit.

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  5. It's indeed a very well made movie. I am glad you liked the review!!!

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