Nominated for Oscars in the best picture, best cinematography and best original score categories (with a nomination for Dev Patel as best supporting actor), Lion is the closest India will get to an Academy Award when the hardware is doled out February 26 (telecast in India on the morning of February 27).
The true story of Saroo Brierley, who tracked down his biological parents in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, some 25 years after he was separated from them by a tragic mistake, Lion features Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, Bollywood’s Priyanka Bose and Nicole Kidman. But it’s Sunny Pawar (pictured below)—who plays the five-year-old Saroo—who has the US media going gaga. “He kills it on the red carpet and talk shows,” says Bose, who plays Saroo’s biological mother, Kamala. She also described Kamala as a “strong single mother” who never loses hope despite losing two of her
four kids in one night. Directed by Garth Davis, Lion follows five-year-old Saroo as he accidentally boards a train to Calcutta—becoming lost—where he is eventually adopted by an Australian family. Twenty-five years later, the grown up Saroo (Dev Patel) uses Google Maps to find his way back home.
The director’s team featured first assistant Ananya Rane, who worked on Million Dollar Arm and Life of
Pi. India casting director Tess Joseph tapped Tannishtha Mukherjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Deepti Naval and child actor Abhishek Bharate, and discovered Pawar after interviewing over 2,000 school kids.
Though it’s won plenty of plaudits, Lion didn’t come out a winner at the recent Golden Globes, where Pawar stole the show. The inevitable comparison to Slumdog may even hurt its chances at an Oscar. As Rane said, “There’s no masala. These are real events that have happened. It’s more an introspective journey.”
NEW DISCOVERY SUNNY PAWAR, WHO PLAYS THE FILM’S MAIN CHARACTER AS A CHILD, HAS CHARMED AUDIENCES WORLDWIDE