Technology has become a part of our lives and is all consuming. Lion arrives in cinema halls to remind others of a time when people were only getting acquainted with Google Maps. It’s also a movie that sends out a message of unity and hope in a world where politics is creating a divide amongst people. Directed by Garth Davis and written by Luke David, Lion is a based on a non-fiction book called A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley. The film depicts how at the tender age of 5, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is separated from his family whilst on a train in India. In Kolkata, he is given shelter in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian family. When faced with his childhood memories of India, as he sets out to study hotel management, an adult Saroo (Dev Patel) realises that he is actually a lost person in dire need of closure. From there on begins a journey of using technology to reconnect with his family and bring back a sense of identity that he always knew was missing.
With locations in Madhya Pradesh and Kolkata, cinematographer Grieg Fraser captures the beauty and essence of India superbly which is key given how important geography is in Saroo’s story. From the railways to Howrah Bridge in Kolkata, one could easily mistake Lion for a classily shot Hindi movie. Pawar is from the slums of Mumbai and proves to be an extraordinary talent, carrying the first half of Lion with aplomb. He nails the pain, fear and helplessness in the chaos of Kolkata as you are swept away with him on his journey. He is effortless as a missing boy who seems to find immense strength to survive in a foreign city where he can’t speak or understand Bengali. He doesn’t need to be the scene stealer – he is the star of the movie who acts without restrictions and with heart.
Sunny Pawar as Saroo in a still from Lion
Photo Credit: The Arts Desk
Patel is a breath of fresh air as the adult Saroo with eyes that speak a thousand words (reminiscent of actor Hrithik Roshan), an endearing smile and an unruly mop of hair. Pawar lays the foundation but it is Patel’s angst as the lost man that craves answers which is so palpable that one cannot help but cry with him. The minute he fumbles over a question asking him where he is from, one instantly connects with him and his discomfort. Patel delivers in a scene where at a house party, the sight and taste of a jalebi causes him to unravel and declare to a group of friends that he is actually lost. Nicole Kidman as Sue is brilliant as Saroo’s mother as she bonds with a young Saroo and cries as she sees her son tumble into a black hole. Rooney Mara also fares well as the girlfriend offering support to Saroo as he crumbles.
Dev Patel as Saroo and Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierley in a still from Lion
Photo Credit: DNA India
A special mention goes to Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran who are the masterminds behind the music. The background score is sublime from beginning to end, especially in the scene where Saroo sits down at his laptop and searches on Google Earth. From the magic of the Indian flute to the use of a lullaby sung by the nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, everything works perfectly to elevate the story. It was a pleasant surprise to find Patel and Mara dance on the streets to AR Rahman’s iconic ‘Urvashi’ as they flirt with each other.
Lion is one of those rare movies that wins on all fronts – the screenplay, direction and acting is excellent. The story sends out a wonderful message on adoption, love and hope. The core of the film is emotions and director Davis deserves applaud and an award for getting it perfect. This is one movie that will stay with you for a long time. A must watch.