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February 23, 2017

‘Lion’ Is An Emotional Retelling Of An Incredible True Story

Text by Nisha Paul

We review the Oscar-nominated drama starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman among others…

Adapted from his book, A Long Way Home, the film recounts the tale of Saroo Brierley who, after more than two decades, reconnected with his birth family. The story is both unusual and true, and takes the audience on an odyssey from India to Australia and back. The script pulls at the heart strings — a young five-year-old is torn from his roots and family through a series of unfortunate coincidences, only to chart his way back as a young man to his long-lost home. In spite of this unbelievable premise, the director still manages to depict the authenticity of the circumstances and exposes how adoption can sometimes muddle identity. There are no dramatic embellishments, no manipulative scenarios and no succumbing to gaudy sentimentality.

Two young brothers Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) live in rural north India. But one day they are separated and Saroo finds himself on a train going to Kolkata. Unfamiliar with the language and unsure of how to get back home, he winds up at an orphanage. The descent from the familiarity of home to the nightmarish uncertainty of a cruel life on the streets, make us quickly warm up to the protagonist.

As the camera rolls, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. Overnight, Saroo’s life is transformed and he is whisked off to a privileged life in Hobart, Tasmania. He grows into a confident and ambitious 30-year-old, played by Dev Patel. As we are taken through his new life — where he secures a hotel management course and a flourishing romance with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) — we find him haunted by the world he left behind. He learns about Google Earth and starts the difficult mission of piecing his old memories together to find his birth family across a huge radius in India.

Patel’s character is that of a man trapped in two worlds with two identities. Scenes depicting the privileges of his adult life and the poverty of his childhood are visually arresting. A moving conclusion that doesn’t go overboard shows admirable restraint. It is Pawar’s turn as young Saroo that makes this film a winner. Priyanka Bose makes a mark as his biological mother in her second Hollywood outing last year. The underlying theme of relentless determination makes this tear-jerker a major contender for the Oscars.

Read our interview with Priyanka Bose here.

Read our interview with Dev Patel here.

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