Movie: Lion (2017)

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Seeing the movie poster above, most people might think that Lion is a romance film. In all actuality, the romance part of this movie is almost irrelevant — that’s why the poster above can be misleading. But Indonesians favour romance movies anyway, it might as well boost the sales. The international movie poster should have been like this, being more appropriate with the storyline:

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Lion is based on a true story, from Saroo Brierley’s book called A Long Way Home. The movie starts with the year of 1986. Everyday, little Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar) and his brother, Guddu, steal coals from trains to be traded for food and milk. Living in a rural village called Ganesh Talai in India, both children face difficulties to find food since their mother only works in a construction place. One day, Saroo begs Guddu so he can follow his brother to do a hard-labor job. At first, Guddu refuses to be followed, yet he eventually caves in when seeing the 5-year-old Saroo forces himself to lift a bicycle as a proof of “strength”. When Guddu is working, Saroo finds himself being stranded in an empty train station. Innocently, little Saroo enters one of the trains, only to find it to be moving when he wakes up the next morning. Frightened and hungry, Saroo screams for Guddu’s name frantically — “Guddu! Guddu! Where are you?”. No matter how loud Saroo screams, no one can hear him as the train is completely empty of passengers. The train finally arrives in Calcutta (roughly about 1500 kilometres away from Ganesh Talai) where he cannot even speak the local Bengali language. To people scattering around him, Saroo says the name of his hometown, of which he spells it as “Ginestlay” — again, no one understands what he is trying to say.

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Completely lost with nowhere to go, Saroo automatically becomes a homeless child strutting along the rough pavements of Calcutta. At night, he sleeps on the street with only a carton as his mattress.Since India has a high rate of child trafficking, Saroo almost gets kidnapped by several grown men. He escapes the thrilling situation, and is saved by a young gentleman who brings Saroo to the nearest police station. Still, the police cannot understand “Ginestlay”, thus he sends Saroo to an orphanage that treats children like literal shit. However, Saroo’s fate gets better when the kind-hearted Ms. Sood decides to put an advertisement on the newspaper about child adoption. In 1987, Saroo moves to Tasmania under the care of his adoptive Australian parents, Sue and John Brierley. Several months later, Saroo’s Australian parents adopt an Indian child again, who turns out to be self-destructive.

 

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Saroo with Ms. Sood, who teaches basic etiquette class to the orphans

Fast-forward to 20 years later, Saroo has become a grown man now (played by the amazing Dev Patel) who moves to Melbourne to study hotel management. During his study in Melbourne, Saroo first experiences a flashback of his brother when he sees a traditional Indian food called jalebi — he feels a sudden realization of how desperate his brother and real mother must be, searching for him all over town after he went missing. From then on, Saroo attempts to find his hometown in India with the help of Google Earth. Although he is drenched with guilt towards his now adoptive mother, Saroo can’t help but try to find his real family. After a strenuous effort  of accumulating information, building up strategic planning, and utilizing Google Earth, Saroo finally finds his hometown, Ganesh Talai, of which he has always been spelling it wrong all along. The movie ends happily with the heart-wrenching reunion of Saroo and his real family in India.

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This movie is just so sad, and knowing that it’s based on a real story has made the narrative even more melancholic than ever. Imagine yourself as a 5-year-old, being 1500 kilometres away from your hometown, without any money and even a glimpse of language comprehension — must be terrifying, right? When we were about 5, getting lost in a supermarket seemed to be the scariest thing in the world. Now imagine how little Saroo must have felt when he got stranded in Calcutta.

In the movie, 20-something-year-old Saroo experiences depression while doubting his own identity as an adopted child. Fully comprehends that being adopted is a real privilege, Saroo can’t help but feel guilty when remembering his actual family in India. The girlfriend, Lucy (played by Rooney Mara), is extremely annoying in the movie; she always confronts Saroo without truly acknowledging his situation. At one point, Saroo gets mad and tells her how he is disgusted with him living his privileged life, while his real family is suffering from his absence. Personally, I just think — out of several beautiful Indian women casts, why did the producers choose Rooney Mara, a white woman, to play as Saroo (Dev Patel)’s love interest? Maybe the real Saroo Brierley dated a white woman when he was living in Melbourne. Some say that the producers chose Rooney Mara to boost the movie’s popularity and sales, some argue that a wealthy American benefactor wishes Rooney to play for that particular part. Anyway, the girlfriend character is ultimately insignificant, giving nothing but pettiness for the whole plot.

Dev Patel, who used to look real lanky/skinny, underwent a major transformation for this movie. For 8 months, he worked out hardcore at the gym and joined a course for utilizing Google Earth. Look at his transformation:

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Overall, Lion is a beautiful independently-made movie that has won a lot of accolades and premiered as a box office (with approximately $100 million profit), while also highlighting the danger of child-trafficking in India.

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From left to right: The real Saroo Brierley, Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel

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(images: all from Google)

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