There are times in one’s life, where whilst watching magic unveil in front your eyes, you don’t quite know it’s impact until it hits you in the most personal manner. Therefore, the beauty of cinema is such, that not only does it elevate your imagination, evoke opinions and debates, or give rise to some level of awareness, but it also allows your senses to be drawn into the kind of reality that is being created on celluloid.
Just a few days back, I watched Garth Davis’s Lion. Having been nominated for the Oscars this year, the film has obviously garnered incredible talk, applause and critical acclaim, post it’s release. A film that features Dev Patel in the lead who once upon a time began his acting career with the colossal and historic Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. Patel has come a long way through his journey on the big screen, by fortune of being offered some incredible roles, and in turn the opportunity to work with exceptional filmmakers.
I must confess that his character in Slumdog Millionaire didn’t make feel entirely convinced as an audience, who had heard of this fresh new South Asian talent being launched in a big Hollywood studio film. But what I saw in Lion, has completely blown me away by virtue of wanting to chew up my words. For any actor who fancies emulating a role of a real life story, bears with the challenge of walking and experiencing the obstacles and glory that come with that reality of the character. And this is where I thought Dev Patel was exceptional through his portrayal of Saroo. Having done his research and homework about the painful childhood of his character, Patel showcased such fine nuances and heart wrenching moments, throughout the course of the film. For someone who’s always been “weak-in-his-knees” for real life, gut wrenching stories, almost every frame in Lion had me at the edge of my seat with a tear or two to shed.
One of the other fascinating and brave elements of the film was the child actor Sunny Pawar, who plays Saroo, for the first half of the film. To have absolutely no formal training in acting and then to deliver a mindblowing performance at the age of 8, is something that you don’t see everyday. The character of Saroo Brierley is so complex and inspiring to say the least, that it didn’t require the screenplay to alter much, for the actor to project onscreen. And when you see that ‘so-close-to-life’ role being portrayed flawlessly, it only inspires and drives you greatly as an artist watching such work.
No film is bigger than it’s vision. And if that criteria is to be held accountable for, then the director deserves a tremendous amount of credit. There aren’t many filmmakers who could’ve showcased the reality of Saroo’s life and background as artistically and authentically as Garth Davis did. The subtlety with which he takes time to present his trying and miserable childhood, from one obstacle to the other, from expressing the sheer loss of direction and abandonment in his life at an infant stage, to displaying the shift in emotions when he’s adopted by Australian parents, to give him a new life decorated with dreams and hope. Direction is all about being able to tell a story, with the writers words as your backbone, and the trust of an actor as your dream investor. Davis said so much in certain scenes through no dialogues, because he identified that pain could only be dealt and expressed through silence.
We often come across a phase in life where words don’t do justice to an emotion or an instance close to the heart. It’s the kind of feeling that only a medium like Cinema can stimulate one’s sensibilities, by garnering the courage to accept reality and the way it unfolds in front of you. Lion, being a factual representation of a real life story, taught me so much about courage, opportunity, love, pain, and ultimate hope and satisfaction. But more importantly, the film reminded me that no matter where in the world you are, no matter what you do, the only thing that truly defines you is the gratitude and love you have for the people and roots that make you the person that you are.