My Thoughts on the Book and the Film
I am sure that by now some of you will have seen or at least heard about the film “Lion” which was nominated for several Academy Awards. I have no idea why it did not win any. I don’t as a rule follow Hollywood movies and had no idea what most of the other films were about but I doubt that they were better than this one.
I first heard the amazing story of Saroo Brierly in 2015. David told me about it one day when I was visiting him in hospital after hearing about it from a friend. I asked our friend to tell me a bit more about it and learned how John and Sue Brierly had adopted this little boy from India in 1987. If you know the film you will know that Saroo became lost after getting onto a train which carried him across India to Calcutta as it was known then. He was just five years old and as he spoke a different dialect he was unable to communicate with anyone to tell them who he was or how he got there. He survived on the streets for some time before being taken to the orphanage which the Brierly’s adopt him from. When he grows up Saroo searches for his home by using Google Earth and eventually is successful.
I was interested in this story at once because it is so unlikely that such a thing could happen that I wanted to know more but also because of the Hobart connection. The Brierly’s own an industrial hose business in Hobart and I had often seen their ads on television.
The film is based on the book Saroo Brierly wrote about his experiences, “A Long Way Home”. I decided that before I saw the film I would try to read the book and luckily some friends had it and loaned it to me. It is a very readable book and I was able to finish it in three days finishing the day before seeing the film. Naturally I noticed a few differences which is to be expected when you try to compress a book into a two hour film but on the whole it stayed fairly close to the book.
One of the things that is different of course is that in the book Saroo writes in a lot more detail about his memories of his home and family and his experiences living on the streets. I have to say that he was an incredibly fortunate little boy and obviously had good instincts about who to trust as he was in danger of being abducted more than once. He also had the good fortune to be saved from drowning by a complete stranger.
It must have been a hard decision for a young boy to make to abandon all hope of returning to his family and making the long trip to Australia. Hobart must have seemed about as different from Calcutta as it could possibly be. I was also very interested to learn that the Brierly’s had chosen to adopt rather than have children of their own because they felt there were enough people in the world already and that by adopting an abandoned child they could do some good in the world. Although it is not mentioned much in the film they did all they could to ensure that Saroo and later his adopted brother had Indian things around them. He tells how he had a map of India in his room when he was growing up and how, when he was able to speak some English he told his mother what he could remember of his life and she helped him to draw a map of his home. If you had only seen the film you might think that Saroo only started to think about India when he met the Indian students at college but in fact he wrote that he always thought about it and willed himself to remember as much as he could.
I was not at all surprised to read that Dev Patel would play the adult Saroo. I had first seen him in the TV series “The Newsroom” and liked him a lot. Actually I had seen him a few years earlier on the British TV serues “Skins” but I did not realise this until later. I have also seen him in “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” I thought that he gave a fine performance as Saroo Brierly and yes I agree he nailed the Australian accent.
Nicole Kidman I was very impressed with too. I think that is the first time I have seen her playing a part that did not require her to look glamorous and I liked that she was willing to do that. David Wenham is also a good Australian actor. I hadn’t seen him in anything for some time as I don’t really watch a lot of movies. I remember that I liked him a lot in the Australian TV series “SeaChange” which I’ve recently been re-watching.
As for little Sunny Pawar who played young Saroo, how cute is this child? I think that must have been a difficult role for a little boy with little or no acting experience but he was so believable.
The other thing that I liked about the film was the cinematography. It won’t come as any surprise to you that I love to see Tasmania on the big screen but I thought that the way the Indian scenes were filmed was beautiful too and I liked the scenes featuring Google Earth. I have always been fascinated by Google Earth and like most of us who use it I’ve walked the streets of places I’ve lived with it.
If you have not seen “Lion” it’s well worth a look and if you would like to delve deeper into the story read “A Long Way Home”. If, like me, you were wondering how the film came to be called Lion it is because Saroo’s real name, which he could not pronounce as a five year old is Sheru which means Lion. If you are appalled at how orphaned or abandoned children are forced to live I’ve included a link from the film’s website to some organisations that try to help them.