We come into the world alone and leave alone. Yet, in our time on earth we form innumerable relationships. Notably, our affiliations are based on either one, a shared interest or affinity for each other’s company, or two, consanguinity. It really is difficult to comment with certitude as to which type trumps the other. Yet, having said that, one cannot deny the potent influence of a blood relation over an individual. It is this innate connection to a family- a mother, father and siblings- that defines a human being. It is hardly a matter of irony then that we spend our entire life trying to find and build an identity for ourselves, when a major part of who we are is already determined by where we come from.
‘Lion’ is the movie adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s autobiographical account ‘A Long Way Home’. Christened Sheru Munshi Khan and lovingly called Saroo, Brierley was born in Ganesh Talai, in Khandawa, Madhya Pradesh. At the tender age of five, he gets separated from his brother. His quest to find his way back to his family is fruitless, exacerbated by the apathy of a city like Calcutta, where every third person is a victim of poverty, wretchedness and exploitation. After living for months at the mercy of life, where he is tossed around like a rag doll, combating chronic hunger, assault and attempts of being trafficked, he finds his way to the Indian Society of Sponsorship and Adoption. From there, he is taken in by the Brierley household in Hobart, Tasmania, in Australia.
Saroo is given a comfortable life by his adoptive parents. The love he receives blurs the memories of his past. He adapts well to his new life, becoming proficient in English and even forgetting Hindi, the only language he once knew. He acquires the best of education and goes on to study hotel management. He is a promising young man with a future replete with potential. However, one seemingly innocuous incident opens up the floodgate to his past. The recollections of his childhood-his family, his home and his country- come gushing in, submerging him so completely that he now finds himself utterly misplaced in his environment. He leaves all else and sets out to trace his roots.
Eventually, he does locate his mother and sister. But the union is not entirely happy.
Those who have read the book would nevertheless appreciate the cinematic experience of ‘Lion’. Actors Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman have done a stupendous job of bringing life to this moving narrative. Garth Davis, the director of the film, has spun nothing short of magic, ensuring that there are no leakages of emotion and storytelling, in the transformation of prose to drama.
However, for someone who is told this story for the first time, ‘Lion’ is a movie that will rattle you in a subtle, yet enduring way. It will tug at your emotional sensibilities, making you question the importance of home, family ties in our materialistic world. If you are sensitive like I am, it may even make you revisit your priorities. And even if not, you will find yourself reeling in the exquisitely poetic narration of one man’s journey to find his way home, even if it is long.
Rating 4.5 stars