<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Garth Davis. Starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar, Abhishek Bharate, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Deepti Naval, Divian Ladwa
Running time: 2 hours
You don’t need to be lost in a strange place to feel alone. Knowing where you come from is as important as where you are now. These are some of the philosophies of Lion.
One of the worthy contenders at the Oscars this season, Lion is a beautiful film. The first half shows us the struggles of little Saroo, a five-year-old (played by the hugely gifted Sunny Pawar) who inadvertently gets on an out-of-service train while his older brother is off trying to earn money for them and their mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose). He lands up in another state, in the city of Kolkata. How he survives is the most riveting and heart-wrenching part of the film. If it weren’t for a kindly Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) looking to adopt an Indian child, Saroo would have vanished in the archaic and chaotic system.
Saroo grows up (and becomes Dev Patel) as an Aussie boy, but something inside him soon yearns for his real family. So that he may tell them he’s fine, so they can finally be at peace knowing that he is alive. This is where Google Earth comes in. The ground breaking software helps him track his village down, but the journey to this discovery isn’t an easy one. Dev Patel has metamorphosed from an awkward, lanky young man into a handsome, hunky and fine actor.
But kudos goes to director Garth Davis for handling the subject so wonderfully and capturing it all without the melodrama that could have transpired in the hands of another director. The stirring music by Dustin O’Halloran and Haushka tugs at your heartstrings and plays an integral part of the story. So does the sensational cinematography by Grieg Fraser.
A special mention has to be made for Nicole Kidman who gives a strong and convincing performance as the mother who is proud of her sons (they adopt two Indian boys) and stands by them, no matter what.
And even though her role is not as long as Kidman’s, Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s mother Kamla is strong and nuanced. In just one scene you can see the sacrifice and love she has for her children. (Read our interview with Priyanka Bose here.)
The fact that Lion is based on a true story is even more astounding as real life is fast becoming more interesting and watchable than fiction.
PS: The first half of the film is mostly in Hindi (I’m assuming subtitles or dubbing will be used in places other than India.)