When it’s a true story, it tugs at the heartstrings
just a little more. Based on the book ‘A
Long Way Home’, it is an unexpected journey for five-year-old Saroo when he
falls asleep on a train that’s decommissioned. He alights in Calcutta which is
1600 kms away from his village near Khandwa. All he knows is his name the way he pronounces
it. Where’s he from? Ganeshtalay. Where is it? Aha, he doesn’t know. What’s his
mother’s name? Ami or mom.
By casting an endearing little Sunny Pawar as Saroo,
director Garth Davis makes you move with the lost brown child till he’s finally
adopted by Australian couple, John and Sue.
Until then, although Saroo is disarmingly naïve about
his family and whereabouts, he has fortunate reserves of survival instincts
that make him run away from trouble when he’s sized up by a pair of shady
adults. The casting of efficient actors like Tannishthaa Chatterjee and
Nawazuddin Siddiqui in these short cameos keeps the interest alive. Davis also adds
shots like Saroo, now a rag-picking urchin on the streets of Calcutta,
connecting silently with someone in a restaurant whose movements he cheekily
imitates with a spoon from across the road. You know, scenes that aren’t full
of self-pity and morbidity. And that makes you cross your fingers just a little
tighter for Saroo.
The angst actually comes to a grownup Saroo who’s been
brought up with love, care and comfort in Australia. Dev Patel with more facial
hair than he had in Slumdog Millionaire,
gets progressively more dishevelled and disturbed as flashes from his childhood
begin to haunt him: his bonding with older brother Guddu who promised him a
shopful of jalebis someday and mother Ami with her lovely smile.
Saroo now has a girlfriend too but it’s a plate of
jalebis that prods his emotions. And it’s Google Earth that plays the most
important part in locating Ganeshtalay, even if these scenes are sluggish and take
up too much of screen time.
It’s heartwarming to watch a real life story that has
closure and a pleasure of its own. It’s also told simply and neatly without
Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel playing Saroo win your
empathy. Nicole Kidman as his Australian mother has a couple of moments of
emotional brilliance. But you have to wait till the end to know why the film is
For a tale that proves that happy endings do exist in
real life, Lion gets a 3* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author