"LION, based on an incredible true story, is a powerful and satisfying cinematic experience full emotion, adventure, danger and bravery, and one of the best films I've seen for a long time" ... Naomi Rossdeutscher
Like so many others, I read the incredible true story of Saroo Brierley in a news article and was fascinated. My Mum and I talked started researching the story because we wanted to know more... so when David Wenham mentioned, at Cinefest Oz, that Transmission films were making the film, we were filled with anticipation. The film is LION, and while highlighting the strong bond of family it also brings to light the tragic plight of countless disadvantaged children in India.
Sunny Pawar who plays young Naroo, is a beautiful and captivating child performer. Dev Patel who plays adult Naroo pulls off a perfect Australian accent, something very few foreign actors can do, and is compelling to watch, and Nicole Kidman delivers a sensitive, award worthy performance.
Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train travelling away from his home and family. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, escaping all sorts of terrors and close calls in the process, before ending up in an orphanage that is itself not exactly a safe haven.
Eventually Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, and finds love and security as he grows up in Hobart. Not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, he suppresses his past, his emotional need for reunification, and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. With just a small store of memories, and the help of a new technology called Google Earth, Saroo embarks on one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times.
Adapted from the memoir “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, LION is directed by Emmy Award-nominated Garth Davis (Top Of The Lake) from a screenplay by Luke Davies (Candy, Life). LION stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Wenham with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Deepti Naval, and introducing Sunny Pawar.
LION was developed and produced by London and Sydney-based See-Saw Films (The King’s Speech, Shame, Top Of The Lake) in association with Aquarius Films and Sunstar Entertainment. Producers are Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder with Executive Producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, David C. Glasser, Andrew Fraser, Shahen Mekertichian and Daniel Levin.
SUNNY PAWAR AS SAROO (YOUNG)
One of the great challenges of the film was to find an Indian boy to play Saroo as a five-year- old. Angie Fielder says that the Indian production team worked closely with schools and parents in several large Indian cities in their search for the right boys for the roles. They screen tested thousands of children and each child who was considered to have acting potential was filmed and the tests sent back to Australia. Garth, Angie Fielder, Australian casting director Kirsty McGregor and dramaturg Miranda Harcourt then travelled to India to work with the shortlisted children, including Sunny Pawar who was chosen to play Saroo. “He was one of those special kids. So then the question was ‘can we do a scene with him? Can he take direction? Can he cry? Can he scream? Does he have strength? Can he withstand direction?’ He did all of that and more.
“There was a certain point, maybe a week into the shoot, where he became an actor...where it was clear he was putting together different emotional ideas. It was absolutely extraordinary recognizing that he was bringing something to his performance that we weren't asking him to do.”
LION is Sunny Pawar’s first acting role. He was discovered at a school for disadvantaged children in Mumbai after an exhaustive search to find the boy to play the leading role of young Saroo. Sunny continues to live with his family and go to school in Mumbai. Since filming of LION, Sunny has been cast in the film Love Sonia, starring Demi Moore
DEV PATEL AS SAROO (ADULT)
Garth Davis says: “Dev heard we were making the film very early on, when we were still writing. He pulled up one day at Luke Davies’ house in Los Angeles where we were working, walked in and introduced himself. He was very passionate about the role. Eventually we did a four and a half hour screen test in London – literally bare feet and a handheld camera – and I pushed and pushed Dev to see how far he could go with this character. We needed a soul that shined and that is Dev!”
Iain Canning and Angie Fielder recall meeting Saroo Brierley and their first impressions of him.
Angie says: “When you meet Saroo you get a sense of how he managed to survive on the streets of Kolkata as a five year old. There is something about him as a person that is very resilient and industrious and confident. At the same time he’s a quintessential Aussie guy with a larrikin sense of humor.”
SHOOTING IN INDIA
The Indian shoot was physically demanding, with the cast and filmmakers battling the crowds and pollution of Kolkata, and the dust and heat of Indore in western India. The shoot was ambitious, with the story demanding that filming take place in the crowded main train station in Kolkata, on the bridge that connects the east and west of the city, and alongside the Hugli river – a tributary of the Ganges - where the production had to ferry cast and equipment through the teeming, narrow alleyways of the flower market, on the eve of a major festival. Angie Fielder recalls closing the Howrah Bridge for several hours one night, as both a major highlight and major challenge of the shoot. Angie praises Indian line producer Pravesh Sahni, whose production services company Take One India, is one of the most experienced in the business.
SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN IN INDIA
Producer Emile Sherman believes the film will deliver a powerful message about adoption: “The film gives an insight into the lives of children who have been adopted and I hope will push more Western countries to recognize the need for and benefits of adoption. There are so many kids who never end up in a loving family and there are so many loving families who want a child.”
Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year. See-Saw Films have been exploring opportunities to work with reputable organizations to support children in India and around the world. Using the profile and publicity that will surround the release of this moving film, See-Saw hope to shine a spotlight the need for global support to assist these organizations. Audiences will be able to find out more information and an opportunity to make a donation via the film’s website, www.lionmovie.com