A solidly crafted, emotionally stirring Australian film about an Indian boy who ended up on the mean streets of Calcutta and eventually in the cozy home of an Australian couple in Hobart has generated a buzz at the ongoing 41st Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Lion, helmed by first-timer Garth Davis and top-lined by Dev Patel, is the amazing true story of Saroo Brierley, an impoverished Madhya Pradesh five-year-old who lost contact with his birth mother after being carried 1600 km away from home by a train on which he fell asleep.
The film, also starring Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Mumbai actress Priyanka Bose and child actor Sunny Pawar, tracks Saroo's search for his home in Khandwa a quarter century later with the help of Google Earth.
Based on Brierley's book, A Long Way Home, Lion has been produced by The Weinstein Company and is expected to go all the way when the Academy announces its next Oscar nominations.
The film is expected to be a strong contender for TIFF's audience choice award, which is usually a harbinger of Oscar night glory. At the post-premiere press conference on Sunday, Nicole Kidman, who plays the protagonist's adoptive mom, Sue Brierley, said, "This is a film about the power of mothers, whichever form they come in."
The role of Saroo's biological mother Kamla is played by Priyanka Bose. She said, "Lion is an incredible story of a lost man finding his way back home in circumstances that are stranger than fiction."
For both lead actor Dev Patel and director Garth Davis, Lion has been a self-confessedly life-altering experience. "The Lion role was unlike anything that I've done before on the screen. It was deeply introspective. In real life, I am a fidgety kind of person. Playing Saroo Brierley was life-changing, and one of the more nourishing experiences I've had as an actor," said Dev.
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