The 1st Runner-Up at the Toronto International Film Festival 2016, Lion is about Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar as the child Saroo) retracing his Indian roots and birth place in India with Google Earth after being raised by an Australian family. During the festival, the film played to packed houses with several film-goers waiting in huge queues extending two blocks. Amidst such popularity, Minority-Review’s Swati Sharan got the chance to interview Priyanka Bose who plays Saroo’s (Dev Patel as the adult Saroo) birth mother Kamala in the film. Here is what she had to share with us.
In Lion, you play Saroo’s birth mother. How did you prepare for the role?
It was a challenge for me. Only because I haven’t gone to acting school. The trajectory of this character is a whole journey of not only age, but a whole life of anguish and survival of another nature, that people like you and me can only imagine. For me, I had to find reasons in my head to make her more believable for the audience. Spending time with the locals always helps.
How much did real life and reel life interplay while preparing for the film?
A lot. Garth Davis (the director) took time etching Kamala out. His narration to me was something that helped me immensely. He had spent time with the real Kamala and studied the emotional structure of where she comes from. I had to do justice to that.
How was it working with an international cast of actors like Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and Dev Patel?
My work was primarily with Sunny Pawar (little Saroo), Abhishek Bharate (Saroo’s elder brother, Guddu) and Dev Patel who plays the grown up Saroo. So even if the ensemble was an international one, the three of us were islands. The rest of the cast fills in the entire story to its journey.
How is the working style different between India and the West?
In India, the crew is massive. Every camera comes with 10 people, if not more. The only difference is that no matter how big an international film is, the crew is precise. No one is out of place and they are doing exactly what they are meant to do. Over here everyone does everything. It’s just how people work here.
Only a big budget here, like maybe a Sanjay Leela Bhansali production, will have some equanimity. Otherwise, it’s a bit chaotic. But it’s not impossible. Doing a sync sound anywhere in India is a nightmare.
Kalki Koechlin argued that the only way you hold sway in Bollywood as a female is if you’re Priyanka Chopra. But considering that more women are coming out in unconventional roles like you have, do you think this is true?
She is not entirely wrong. Good actors like us fill in spaces as ‘good actors’ to support the Bollywood quintessential prototype and that’s about it. We must just stick it out and demand more diversity. The unconventional ideas or stories still do not get the support we need. I know my craft, but constantly putting myself out there with bad budgets is taking a toll on me too.
Watch the trailer of Lion here:
Photographed by Shivaji Sen
Styled by Aasiya Abbas
Hair by Sonam Singh
Makeup by Vidhi Salecha