Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Almost all of us have either heard or read about instances wherein kids go out with their parents, get mislaid and find themselves with strangers. But how often have you heard of a true story where a child is separated from his family, adopted by another and as a grown up man he uses Google Earth to find his home? It is a unique story and definitely needs a different treatment, which is what Australian director Garth Davis successfully does through his feature debut Lion.
Even if you have read Saroo Brierley’s autobiography A Long Way Home and are aware of the events that happened in his life, you’d find the film intriguing, engaging and highly inspirational. Since the director has focused more on emotions and not made it strictly plot-driven, Lion manages to strike the chord with the viewers.
While the opening sequences as the credit rolls prepares the viewers of what is in store for them, the introductory shot of a young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) amidst butterflies comes across as a beautiful metaphor for life. Since we all know that nothing has ever been more eloquent and creative than a butterfly, its usage with a young Saroo trying to embrace them is just an insight into the new life – with beauty, colours and different patterns of expression – that he is about to clasp.
But before Saroo sets out for a better life in Austarlia, director Garth Davis takes us back to 1986 to give a deeper understanding of the poverty that Saroo and his brother Guddu have to deal with. They chase trains, risk their lives to steal coals, escape cops – all to ensure food - the biggest unmet need for them – is taken care of. Preferring milk over jalebis is deliberately shown to emphasise on their financial condition. Since their mother (Priyanka Bose) has to shoulder the responsibility of her brood all alone, there are moments when her expressions explain just what expectations she has from her sons. Even though he is barely 5, he is fully aware of his financial condition. This is why he doesn’t show any qualms in taking risks, and extending help to his family.
Saroo while accompanying Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) to steal coal accidentally boards a train and falls asleep. Trapped in a train for long hours, Saroo travels 1600 kilometers east of Khandwa and reaches Calcutta. While we expect his life to change for better, he crosses platforms, follows a young girl only to get a heartbreaking look at a group of homeless children living under a subway. While he is fortunate enough to escape the horrors that abandoned or lost children have to go through, life gets difficult by the day. The way actors Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui take advantage of Saroo’s helplessness is shocking.
The reason why Tannishtha Chatterjee stands out in an overcrowded field of actors is by sheer talent of bringing her whole self into the game. The fact that she observes and absorbs the nuances of her character so well that enacting them isn’t tough. The length of Nawazuddin’s role doesn’t matter to the film. The moment he says, ‘Ae mera bachcha so raha tha’, you understand his sinister intentions. Deepti Naval’s concern is genuine and her presence is so comforting.
Nicole Kidman who adopts Saroo, is only concerned about her children’s affection. Like any mother, she has unconditional love for her kids and portrays her concern in the most real manner.
Despite a stellar star cast – young actor Sunny Pawar, who makes his acting debut with Lion is a clear winner as young Saroo. Chances are you have seen a kid like him and that’s why his performance will affect many.
Dev Patel ‘s frustration over failed attempts to find his biological mother, his ecstasy on meeting her and a deep sense of loss on being told about his brother’s demise – every emotions is real. You feel for Dev’s helplessness because of the maturity with which he handles his role.
What makes Lion even more memorable is its background score. Whether it is Sunny Pawar or Dev Patel, the impact of their scenes that don’t have enough dialogues are enhanced with its right background score.
Garth Davis’ Lion isn’t just an emotional film which will tear you up inside, but also a heartwarming mother-son tale that offers a compelling, refreshing take on the trite idea of never being able to reunite with families. Go ahead and watch it.