Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and half stars)
Star Cast: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara
Director: Garth Davis
What’s Good: An emotionally binding tale clubbed with powerful performances keeps you hooked all through.
What’s Bad: The story drags in the second half once Saroo’s Google Earth search begins.
Loo Break: None!
Watch or Not?: Watch Lion for its brilliant story and a thoughtful execution.
Lion is based on the book and real story of Saroo Brierley who was estranged from his family in Khandwa as a five year old and 25 years later how he re-connected with them via Google Earth.
Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a slum-dweller who along with his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) does odd jobs to earn money while mother (Priyanka Bose) works as a laborer. They may be poor but they are happy bunch until one day, Saroo insists his brother Guddu to take him along for a night job. The 5 year old gets tired and is left on the station platform by his brother to rest. After waking up and not finding his brother, Saroo panics and boards a train at halt. He falls asleep only to find himself in a train that is locked and miles away from home. Saroo lands up in Calcutta, 1600 kms away from home (Khandwa). Unfamiliar with Bengali and the people, Saroo as a lost child on the streets comes across the most horrific scenes. After a stranger puts him up in an orphanage, Saroo is adopted by a Australian couple in Tasmania. Saroo is brought up with immense love by Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) on the other side of the globe.
20 years later, Saroo is well read and all set for a future in Hotel Management but is still anchored to his past. With the help of technology, Saroo decides to find his way back home (India).
Will he re-connect with his family again is what is left to see.
Lion Review: Script Analysis
Luke Davies takes up the task of carving out a screenplay from Saroo’s book Lion. He does full justice in getting us this lost and found tale with the much-needed cinematic elements. At a point he even makes Google Earth the hero of the story over Saroo.
The narrative hits the right notes with its emotional connect and tears you up in the first one hour of the film itself when little Saroo is lost miles away from home best known for him as ‘Ganesh talai’, a local spot that is hard for anyone else to decipher. From there on, the problem arises in the “bees saal baad” phase. While Saroo has grown up to be an ideal son, we are deprived of insights into his relationship with his brother Mantosh, who is psychologically disturbed. There are hardly two scenes about the two and that’s certainly not enough. Also, Saroo’s obsession with using Google Earth to track his home seems slightly abrupt as though he had gone twenty years waiting for the technology to arise.
His half hearted relationship with girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) is also not explored fully. These are the portions where you feel the plot is at its weakest.
Keeping aside these elements, he makes it very clear with his narrative, how difficult it is for children lost away from home in sprawling, crowded cities of India to survive with issues such as child abuse and corruption at a rampant rise.
Lion Review: Star Performance
Sunny Pawar (little Saroo) is a stunner in this film. He expresses so impressively that one would have to seriously question the role of film schools, here’s proof acting can definitely survive on the basis of sheer talent. He excels in scenes where he is trapped in the train for days or even the innocent glances that he gives to fellow street kids sleeping in the subway asking for help. He is magnificent in one scene where we see him act as though he is having soup with a big spoon he collects from garbage, when he’s gazing at a stranger in the hotel having soup.
Dev Patel (Older Saroo) may have found himself an Oscar nomination for this role but I do feel he could have done better. There are often times in the film where I felt that he wasn’t strongly involved in the character, not enough to convey the pain and angst as Saroo. Nonetheless, there are scenes where he shines bright and shows why he deserves to be where he is.
Nicole Kidman as Sue, Saroo’s adoptive mother does a great job. She is at her most unglamorous. She is lovable in the scene where she has her first alone moment with Saroo who is yet to understand her language and adapt to their lifestyle.
Rooney Mara is limited to her poorly written role as Lucy. We see her almost break into a dance on Indian song ‘Urvashi’ and that’s probably the only lighter scenes from the film.
Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s biological mother does a decent job.
Also supporting cast of Abhishek Bharate, David Wenham give powerful performances.
Indian actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannishtha Chatterjee make an impact in small roles.
Pallavi Sharda has blink and miss cameo in the film.
Lion Review: Direction, Music
Lion marks the feature film debut of Garth Davis who is best known for directing drama series Top Of The Lake. Weaving a poignant tale of Saroo Brierley into a film, Davis does a fine job and has a lasting impact. He makes sure that the film even so with a predictable storyline, stirs you emotionally.
Places where Davis excels is capturing Calcutta in its most different side. The city has never looked so scary or lonesome. Powerful scenes such as that of the last rights of child being carried out (who was lost in the streets with Saroo) or Saroo scraping through garbage to find eatables, are moving.
One of the best scenes is indeed in the orphanage, where we see abused, unhealthy children singing ‘Chaan Ko Dhoondne Sitare Nikle’ in a dimly lit room.
Greg Fraiser does a fairly good job with flyover shots making the required impact.
Editing seems to have been an issue and I strongly feel the scissors worked too much in this case. We needed to revel more in Saroo’s growing up journey and that the 20 year leap and what happens after it is rapid.
Also, the climax scene could have been better had Priyanka Bose been offered a believable make up for her aging. But the best is certainly finding out what comes towards the end, the reason why the film is named Lion. (You’ll be surprised!)
Lion Review: The Last Word
Lion is best to be watched with a box of tissues at hand. Little Sunny Pawar’s class act and Saroo Brierley’s true story are sure to leave you in tears. This is a film worth watching for its interesting journey of survival. A 3.5/5 for the film.
Lion releases on 24th Feb, 2017 in India.
Share with us your experience of watching Lion.