Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a five-year-old boy living somewhere in
the rural slums of India. His
father is AWOL, but his mother, Kamla (Priyanka Bose), tries her best
to provide for Saroo and her older son, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), as
well as her baby daughter. She
collects rocks from a quarry. Saroo
and Guddu try their best to supplement the family income, sometimes by
stealing coal from a passing train and selling it at the local market
to buy milk. There's no
school. They live simply
and quietly, but they are happy because they have each other.
One evening Guddu goes off to find some night work, unloading
containers. Saroo begs to
go with him, saying he can lift anything, and reluctantly Guddu
agrees. But when Saroo
grows tired, Guddu leaves him on the bench at the railway station,
telling him to stay right there.
But Saroo wakes up and finds himself completely alone, and
decides to look on the train for Guddu.
The train takes off, and Saroo is stuck on it.
For a couple of days. He
suddenly finds himself in the big city (Calcutta), where surviving as
a street urchin is almost impossible, because he doesn't even speak
the same dialect. He's
almost relieved to find himself in an orphange.
But life there is harsh and unloving.
They are treated strictly and punished corporally for any
infraction of the many rules. But
for once, fortune smiles on Saroo.
He is adopted by an Australian family, and is immediately flown
to the island of Tasmania to meet them.
Of course it's not easy, at first.
Saroo trusts his new “Mum,” Sue (Nicole Kidman) and
“Dad” John (David Wenham). But
the cultural adaption has to go at its own pace.
Things aren't made any easier when John and Sue decide to adopt
another Indian from the orphanage, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa), who suffers
from some kind of asocial depressive condition which causes him to
strike himself frequently and forcefully.
And you're thinking of the kindly adoptive parents, “No good
deed goes unpunished.”
Fast-forward 25 years. Saroo
(Dev Patel) is now thoroughly acclimaited into Australian culture,
even adopting their accent and their slang.
He's enrolled in a hotel management course where he meets a
nice American girl, Lucy (Rooney Mara, who, ironically, is known for
her bad-girl roles, but plays it straight here).
But something starts unraveling inside Saroo.
He finds himself longing to find his “real” Mother and
brother again, even though he keeps assuring “Mum” Sue that it's
not like he doesn't appreciate what she's done.
He just needs to go back to let them know he's still alive.
The trouble is, he doesn't remember where “home” is.
The name of the town he remembers doesn't appear on anyone's
map. He tries plotting out
the co-ordinates of every possible town within a two-day train radius
of Calcutta, but that encompasses practically all of India.
He can't even find any help on Google Maps.
But by now he's become so obsessed that he's run off Lucy and
managed to disappoint Sue and John because of the way he quit his job
and turned his back on Mantosh, who's not easy to love, anyway.
But one day the breakthrough comes.
He manages to find out the real name of his little town, which
wasn't exactly how he remembered it, but then again, eventually he
finds out that he'd been misspelling his own name, as well (his actual
name means “Lion” in Hindi, hence the title of the film).
What follows is the emotional reunion much like Saroo often
dreamed about, except of course not everything is the same, nor is
everyone he remembers still around.
But at last he is reunited with his birth family, which
doesn't, in fact, cause him to forsake his adoptive family, but
instead renew his appreciation for them.
Yes, it's a tear-jerker. But
it's also a true story. And
we meet the “real” Saroo, and both his “Moms,” at the end.
Emotional impact? You
bet. And Director Garth
Davis hones his film with such viewer identification that “sometimes
you feel like a motherless child, a long way from home.”