Lion - A Transcontinental Gem

Whenever a movie begins with "Based On A True Story", I'm immediately engaged. Although creating a story that touches the soul is an admirable feat, non fiction will always, in my opinion be more powerful and honest. Lion is an uplifting true story about Sarro, an indian child who is adopted by an australian family. Dev Patel plays a real-life figure separated from his family in central India at age five and reunited with them a quarter century later. It also stars Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara.

Despite being released 4 years ago Lion (2016), feature film debut of Australian director Garth Davis is a movie I watched and re-watched recently. It tells the heartbreaking story of Saroo, a 5 year old indian boy who after being separated from his brother at a train station finds himself swept away hundreds of kilometers from home.

The year is 1986, Saroo and his older brother Guddu steal coal from freight trains to trade for milk and food they bring back to their mother and little sister. After pleading, Saroo convinces Guddu to take him along on a job just a short train ride away. At the station Saroo is sleepy and decides to stay behind for a short nap on a bench but when he wakes up Guddu is nowhere to be found. Saroo boards an abandoned train to continue sleeping but wakes up to find it moving. Saroo desperately tries to disembark the train and cries out for help but his cries fall on deaf ears.

After several days the train ends up in Calcutta, where Saroo does not understand the local dialect (Bengali) He stands at a ticket counter and tries to find a way home, but the attendant does not recognise the name of his village. Saroo wanders around Calcutta until he is placed in an orphanage where he is taught basic english and etiquette, preparing him to be adopted by Sue and John Brierley.

The Brierley family adopt an additional child, Mantosh, who has trouble adjusting to his new home and suffers from rage and self-harm. Mantosh plays a very minor role in this film, in fact everyone does, Lion is the the story of Saroo and his journey from the indian subcontinent to Tasmania, Melbourne and eventually back to India to find his biological family. While studying hotel management in Melbourne, Saroo sees a dish of Jalebi in a fellow student's kitchen which hurls him into a flashback of him with his biological brother Guddu. While trading stolen coal for milk in the markets of Khandwa,India Saroo and Guddu would fantasize about Jalebi but could never afford it. Jalebi the indian dessert that they dreamed of buying one day was now left carelessly and casually on the countertop.

Saroo divulges his past to the other hotel management students, revealing to them that his roots are a mystery because he was lost as a child. Using google maps, Saroo is able to pinpoint his village and after 25 years returns and is reunited with his biological mother in a moving scene. The movie ends with factual footage of Saroo with both his adoptive and biological mothers. A real tear jerker.

Lion brings up many questions, questions on poverty, contingent incidents and identity. Would Saroo have made it if left in Khandwa? Is it nature or nurture? Saroo Brierley is now a published author, his story made into this powerful film. What would have happened if he never accidentally fell asleep on the train that fateful day and where is he better off ? How many "lost" children would accomplish great things if only given the opportunity ? On the other hand, if Saroo was born in Australia he would not have a gripping story to tell.

If everything in Saroo's life in Australia was satisfactory why was he compelled to return to Khandwa ? Is his identity set indian from the time he was born (nature) or is it acquired through upbringing (nurture) ? When asked who he supports in cricket India or Australia Saroo replies "the Aussie's mate" It's not that he lacks fidelity to his homeland but rather his homeland lost claim to their child. Through the fortuity of chance Saroo was lost in the system which lead him to adopt a new homeland and new loyalties. His return to Khandwa was only to resolve a nagging uncertainty. Saroo needed closure but he is ultimately an australian.

Lion was nominated for 6 Oscars and is the 6th highest grossing Australian film ever at the domestic box office. Out of the happenstance of chaos, Saroo Brierley went from a child in an Indian slum to an internationally celebrated author. Proving that old adage once again "the truth is stranger than fiction". With Cinemagic, you would be able to bring your idea to life through their state of the art facilities and their film fund which helps to empower the youth to follow their film-making dream.


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