I knew Dev would be perfect for Saroo: Garth Davis

Before starting the shoot for Oscar-nominated “Lion”, director Garth Davis made a trip to India to retrace Saroo Brierley’s steps as he felt he had to be completely honest in telling the “powerful” true story of a man searching for his roots. Davis, in the country for the premiere in Mumbai, hopes that people in India embrace the film. It releases in India on February 24.

He is also keeping his “fingers crossed” for the Oscars where the film is nominated in six categories, including the best picture. “It is a beautiful story and something that deserved to be told. I am very proud that it has been loved by so many. I hope India embraces it too. I have a deep affection for India mainly because of its people. They touch you in ways you don’t really forget,” Davis said.

“Lion” is about a young Indian boy who gets separated from his brother and mother when he ends up 1,000 miles away from his home, lost at a railway station in Kolkata. He survives many challenges before being adopted by an Australian family. Years later he tracks down his lost family in India via Google map.

The Australian director, best known for his TV series called “Top of the Lake”, says he knew it was a “huge responsibility” the moment he read Saroo’s story. “I retraced the steps that young Saroo had taken as he was lost on the train station. I remember when I found myself on the Kolkata station and imagined my five-year-old child there, unable to speak the language, invisible to everyone, standing there alone and I felt absolutely mortified.”

The director says he immersed himself in the character’s journey and credits Indian child actor Sunny Pawar and British-Indian star Dev Patel for bringing his vision alive. Sunny’s brief appearance on the Golden Globes stage with Patel was one of the most endearing moments of the award ceremony and Davis is confident that the child actor will be equally enchanting at the Oscars. “Sunny has captured everybody’s heart. It is insane. I have had some very fine actors, mums and dads holding my arm and crying after watching Sunny’s performance. He is the heart of the film. The child actor who plays Guddu is just as extraordinary.”

Davis believes the film is a turning point for Patel, who is up for an Oscar in the best supporting actor category for his portrayal of grown-up Saroo. “This film marks a point in Dev’s career where he was able to show another side of himself to the world. I knew that he would be perfect for Saroo during the rehearsals as I could sense this hunger in him.” Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara are other two pivotal characters in the film, which also stars Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui among others.

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