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The Calcutta premiere of the Oscar-nominated lion. Only t2 was there

Sunny Pawar, little Saroo in Lion, which releases here on February 24

Saroo Brierley, whose memoir A Long Way Home has inspired the film Lion, at the Calcutta premiere of the Dev Patel-Nicole Kidman-Rooney Mara-Sunny Pawar starrer at INOX (Quest) on Sunday evening.

At age five little Saroo accidentally boarded a train at Khandwa, in Madhya Pradesh, and ended up alone on the streets of Calcutta. Subsequently, he was put in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple in 1987. Much later, he embarked on a Google Earth-aided mission to find his birth mother. After being reunited with her, Saroo has been to Calcutta 15 times in the last four years.

 On Sunday, the businessman-cum-author walked into a movie theatre in Calcutta for the first time. “It is massive, giant. It is very glamorous... the theatre is neat and clean and beautiful.... Calcutta is such an integral part of my journey, and I really wanted a premiere here because Lion has Calcutta in it,” said Saroo, who is now working on a prequel to A Long Way Home.

Chris Elstoft, Australia’s deputy high commissioner to India, and Saroo. The premiere was organised by the Australian High Commission in India and hosted by Chris.

Mainak Bhaumik highlighted the chemistry between Saroo and his older brother Guddu as the main emotional pulse of the film. “It’s the gripping journey of a boy lost in a station to being almost abducted and abandoned, starving and to finally finding a home in Australia that makes the movie for me. The way they shot Calcutta was quite breathtaking in the close-ups and mid shots of trying to recreate Calcutta of the 1980s. A very tricky shoot that was well cut and shot,” said the filmmaker.  

Parno Mittra felt Sunny Pawar as little Saroo was “perfect” for the part. “He is brilliant… and he is so cute! People of that age are so honest… they don’t fake an emotion. You just look at his eyes and you can see through. That’s what touches you when you see Sunny. It is magic,” smiled the actress.  

For Shaun and Pinky Kenworthy, Saroo’s story was “incredible”. “It’s destiny... to find a new life and your way back to your own lost family… it’s such a touching true story. The scene where he is stuck in a train and for a kid, he only knows his mummy… he didn’t even know his mum’s name… in fact, he mispronounced his own name (Sheru). That was the best one. Another poignant scene was how the mother knew it was him and he knew it was his mother when they reunited after so many years. The relationship with his elder brother (Guddu) was also very touching,” said Pinky.  

Shaun felt it was an “emotional roller-coaster for everybody”. “The bit to take away is that there are so many kids in that situation… like that… he was lucky to survive,” said the star chef.

Victor Banerjee’s wife Maya and daughter Keya spent the “better part” of Monday morning discussing Lion. “The highlight would be the little boy (Sunny), without a doubt. I don’t know how he was guided! Completely untrained, but he was fantastic and he emoted so well,” said Maya. Lion was overall replete with “fantastic performances”, felt the
mother-daughter duo. “Nicole Kidman was really up to her usual mark… even Priyanka Bose (who plays Saroo’s mom)
was a natural,” said Maya. 

Tina Mukherjee’s pick was Nicole Kidman. “Superb!” she smiled. The model-turned-choreographer’s takeaway from the film was the “message of hope”. 

Sneha Ghosh normally doesn’t cry at movies. On Sunday, she did. “I couldn’t control myself. Things like these… you see them in movies. What we saw unfold was real life!” she smiled. The word that describes the movie best? “Miraculous! You just believe in life a little more than you used to,” said the model. Her performance pick? Sunny Pawar. “Hats off to Dev Patel… he acted well and his body looked great, but it’s that little boy… just so endearing,” she said. 

Pictures: B. Halder


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