The real-life story behind the new Australian film Lion is a tale so incredible it is hard to fathom it is actually true, writes
Saroo Brierley’s is a life extraordinary: the ultimate tale of a little boy lost who found his way home to India via Australia 25 years later through hope, determination, perseverance, and the help of the internet. Lion – named after Saroo’s Hindi name Sheru (which means lion) – is an Australian biopic adapted from Brierley’s autobiography A Long Way Home. Stunningly directed by Garth Davis, it stars British actor Dev Patel as Saroo, Rooney Mara as his girlfriend, a powerful performance by Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother Sue Brierley, and David Wenham as his adoptive father John.
Brierley’s story began in 1986 when the then-five year-old, from a small town in rural India, became lost at a train station while waiting for his brother, and after falling asleep on a train woke up more than 1,000 kilometres away. He lived on the streets, searching hopelessly for his family, and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple and raised in Hobart, Tasmania.
In 2009, still haunted by the fading memories of his Indian family, Saroo used Google Earth to begin searching for his home. He spent months zooming in and out following the train tracks out of Calcutta “like breadcrumbs”. He also used Facebook, Myspace and YouTube groups to research locations and memories. Finally, three years later, he saw something familiar that jogged his childhood memory: a bridge next to a large industrial tank by a train station.
In 2012 Saroo was on a plane back to Ganesh Talai, the tiny village in the town of Khandwa where he grew up and where he was finally reunited with his birth mother Kamla.
Saroo has said of his experience: “Everyone says what is meant to be is meant to be, but I don’t believe it. If there’s a means, there’s a way. It’s somewhere there, and if you give up now you’ll always be thinking later on, on your deathbed: ‘Why didn’t I keep trying, or at least put more effort into it?’” Turn to page 120 to read Nicole Kidman in conversation with Sue Brierley. Lion is in cinemas from January 19.
Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley. Saroo Brierley, left, with actor Dev Patel. Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierley and Sunny Pawar as a young Saroo in Lion. Nicole Kidman with Sue Brierley, who she plays in Lion. Saroo with his birth mother Kamla, far left, and...