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Nominated for six Oscars including Best Motion Picture of the Year; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay; Best Achievement in Cinematography; and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score.

Tens of thousands of children go missing in India every year. “Lion” tells the story of one of those boys.

The movie nominated for six Oscars, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, is based on a true story that is unequivocally unbelievable. It’s an impressive film, however the story itself is the most amazing part.

“Lion” is all about Saroo. Saroo is a child who gets separated from his brother at a train station and falls asleep on a train that transports him roughly 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles) across India to the city of Calcutta.

Now, to provide some context, this is not the same as a child from southeast Oklahoma getting on a bus and ending up in Chicago — it’s only about 750 miles to Chicago. You want to compare population size? Chicago has about 2.7 million residents, while estimates for Calcutta are more than 4.5 million. Language? A Chicagoan might have a difficult time with the Okie accent, but at least most people would be speaking English. For Saroo, he came from a Hindi-speaking part of the country, while those in Calcutta speak primarily Bengali.

After further consideration, maybe a better comparison would be if a 5-year-old Oklahoman ended up in Mexico City with no money, no food and no way to call home.

Saroo ends up near the Howrah Bridge, over the Hooghly River, which connects Calcutta (called Kolkata in India) and the Howrah Station train station. He spends a couple months homeless in the area near the bridge where he digs through piles of trash for valuables and begs for food.

I gasped when the bridge was shown in the film because I have been to the Howrah Bridge and walked along the shores of the Hooghly River in Calcutta. The idea of living there, alone, as a 5-year-old, and not speaking the language is terrifying.

The river and its banks are littered with trash. The water is muddy and odors all around are pungent — as is the case most anywhere you travel in India. Signs are posted on the bridge prohibiting spitting. Why? Because so many people chew “gutka” — a tobacco product — and the gallons of acidic human spit that is spat on the bridge corrodes the beams, requiring drastic and expensive maintenance. On the streets nearby, the public restrooms are extremely public — as in the urinal is in the open for everyone to see if someone is relieving themselves. Where does the “bathroom” drain to? Right into the street.

In a jolting juxtaposition to the filth, the Mullik Ghat flower market is near the base of the bridge and hundreds of thousands of brightly colored flowers can be purchased from street vendors. Those flowers sometimes can be seen bobbing in the waters near shore. Crisp, colorful beauty in a dingy world shock the senses.

Watching Saroo walk in the same places I walked, digging through trash piles for valuables, begging for food — it hit home. I saw dozens of children like Saroo. I watched them “bathe” in water that is impossible to leave a person clean. It’s difficult to stomach the living conditions of so many in this area.

And while watching “Lion,” at this point in the film, I realized just how incredible the story is.

This little boy not only survives living alone in these conditions in Calcutta, but he goes on to be adopted by parents in Australia. He goes from being an afterthought in one of the dirtiest and most destitute places I have ever seen, to being a university-educated surfer in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. It’s the “Prince and the Pauper” story with only one boy.

Saroo uses Google Earth years later to attempt to find his home town. It’s an agonizing process, complicated by a lack of any record of his hometown of “Ganastalay” existing, and the only memory Saroo has of the station where he boarded the train that whisked him away is a tall water tower that loomed over the tracks on the opposite side of the boarding platform.

Calculating the rate of speed a train moved across India during that time, and searching along specific routes, Saroo sets a search radius. Unfortunately, this radius is so great the circumference can be seen from space as Saroo zooms out on the globe in a scene in the film that illustrates the likely fruitlessness of the search. The hopelessness of the search, and Saroo’s increasing obsession with finding his family, drives him to nearly alienate his friends and family in Australia.

Saroo’s adoptive mother, Sue Brierley (played by Nicole Kidman), is one who Saroo nearly drives away with his maniacal pursuit of his home. His isolation from his mother, not his attempts to reconnect with his family, hurts Brierley deeply.

Despite the hurt, Brierley showcases the power of adoptive love. Sue and her husband felt so strongly the world “had enough people” already and decided they would use their resources to adopt not one, but two children from a hopeless situation in India to raise in Australia. Her love for her adopted sons is so tender and compassionate, and Kidman plays the role so well, Kidman earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Bring the tissues because she delivers a monologue in the film about the power of adoption, and family and love that will make you call your mother and tell her you love her when you leave the theater.

Dev Patel, who plays the grown up Saroo, also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He plays the role of an Aussie-accented Indian man who claims to be from Calcutta but knows deep down he’s from somewhere far different. He’s a smiling and happy 20-something-year-old on the outside, but is twisted up and struggling with his cultural identity on the inside because he doesn’t know where he comes from. Patel portrays the agony well, and it earned him his recognition from the Academy.

The final act of the film needs to be seen to be believed. You won’t find out more from me, but it’s worth the watch, I promise you.

Source :

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