Making a feature film based on a true story comes with too many responsibilities and lots of pressure as you have to do justice to that story without tampering it. Lion is based on A Long Way Home penned by Saroo Brierley on whom the film is based and Garth Davis could not have done it better than this. He literally takes you into Saroo’s world and you are in the turmoil with him. Lion is authenticity at is best but depending on your taste the film’s biggest strength may turn out to be it’s major flaw as well.
Lion is a simple story overloaded with emotions creating a lump in your throat throughout. It starts off beautifully with some breath taking visuals while the opening credits roll. Few minutes into the film and you are already with Saroo on his journey. Trying to make it extremely real Garth forgets or chooses not to take any cinematic liberties. Due to this at one point the film looks like a documentary without narration and bytes. Here your cinematic taste buds are tested, not everyone accepts this type of film making. The narrative is very linear which may not work for everyone. Garth tries to put in some flashbacks but they do not work too well. Towards the climax film seems a bit hurried but that is something you need not bother about at all. It ends on a very high note and that is what matters the most.
The treatment of the film is pitch perfect, be it India of 1986 or Australia of 2008 the detailing of the film is brilliant. The lanes of Ganesh Talai in Madhya Pradesh, the Kolkata city, the famous Howrah Bridge, homes in Australia in 80’s, small islands in Tasmania and many more; it is a pure delight to watch all of this in Lion. The honest research that went into creating the picture perfect frames in the film is clearly visible. Production design of Chris Kennedy and cinematography by Greig Fraser is outstanding. Costumes and make up has been very well worked on and that mattered a lot for the film. All these things adds much more life to every single frame. Editing and casting of the film is apt especially the Indian extras casting. Music does not have much of an importance in the film it is more of the background score and sound design, both of which are simply fantastic. Above all these technical aspects Garth Davis’ direction is top notch.
Performances are the major highlight of the film. Dev Patel is a master at his craft. The way he emotes on screen is just flawless. Sunny Pawar is the real star of the film. You are stunned by his performance and he leaves you speechless with his stellar act. It is very difficult to bring out such a great act from such young soul and Garth is phenomenal at it. Abhishek Bharate is perfectly cast, his performance adds the much required warmth in the brothers bond. Nicole Kidman and David Wenham play the perfect caring and responsible parents. That one scene of Nicole where she speaks her heart out to Dev is an ocean of emotions. Priyanka Bose plays a supporting part in the film but she nails it. Right from her very first scene as a mother of three young kids to the last scene where there is an outburst of emotions. That particular scene could have been dramatic but choosing to do it in a subtle way adds more charm to the scene. Deepti Naval appears for just two scenes but the empathy she shows here is something only exceptional actors can do it with so much ease. Tannishtha Chatterjee has lots to do in her limited screen time and she does that effortlessly. Her character is slightly evil, something which Tannishtha has never done before so it is even more interesting to see her do such role. Nawazuddin Siddiqui shines in his one scene. The rest of the cast fits the bill be it Keshav Jadhav, Divian Ladwa or Rooney Mara.
Overall Lion is a great watch. It needs to be seen for appreciating the film making and enjoying the high quality performances. As far as entertainment is concerned in the film it may lack up to some extent but the film will surely leave you satisfied as an audience. I loved the fact that in an English film not even a single character speaks English in India during 80’s.