'I never expected it to go from Golden Globes and Oscar nominations to multiple standing ovations. My story is amazing but I did not expect it to be that captivating that it would affect viewers so emotionally.'
Meet the man behind Oscar-nominated film Lion: Saroo Brierley.
Saroo Brierley's amazing real life story found new wings when it was into a movie called Lion, starring Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Priyanka Bose and Nawazuddin Siddique.
The film won six nominations at the 89th Annual Academy awards, including acting nods for Nicole and Dev, but failed to win.
Based on Saroo's best-selling book A Long Way Home, the film has been getting good reviews.
Saroo tells Rediff.com's Patcy N how his story became an Oscar-nominated film.
With your kind of life story, you may have got a lot of offers to make a film. Or was this the first?
Yes, there were heaps of offers and I am very humbled. I think about 30 production houses expressed their desire to make my book into a film.
There were no offers from India; the offers were mostly from the US.
Why did you choose this offer?
The producers were from Australia and came down to Hobart where I live. Also, they had won an Oscar for The King’s Speech. They have done some amazing jobs as a production company. If anyone knows how to win an Oscar, it is the Weinstein Company.
How involved were you in the scripting process?
The script was written in a raw form; we just shaped it and finished it, putting all the crescendos. We put footnotes of what to remove and what to keep in the script. Finally, it was all put together.
Is the film exactly what you had experienced or have they taken liberties?
When book becomes a movie, it is not exactly the same.
What were the changes?
Some variations like Rooney Mara’s character. She is a compression of a couple of girlfriends.
There were a lot of things that wasn’t there in the movie. You have turn a 10-hour story into two hours, so there would be a lot of things that I would have like to have been in there but it couldn’t fit in those two hours.
Did you expect Lion to be this huge?
I never expected it to go from Golden Globes and Oscar nominations to multiple standing ovations. My story is amazing but I did not expect it to be that captivating that it would affect viewers so emotionally.
It’s not a happy life, not knowing your identity and having such a heavy weight on your shoulders for so long.
I hope this film will give those kind of people empowerment and education.
How often do you visit India?
My visits have been mostly commercial. I help my mother out and the orphanage in Kolkata.
Did you meet Dev Patel, who plays you in Lion?
Yes. We spent a day getting to know each other.
He is extremely astute and observes you a lot. He’s perfectly simplified. He is an actor and that is his job.
Sunny Pawar, who plays your younger version, is not an actor. Did you find anything in common with him?
Twenty-nine years ago, as a child of five years, we would have been friends. (laughs)
He is not an actor but he has done an incredible job with the emotions. He’s a natural.
He’s got an amazing gift and his future looks very bright.
Would you like to remake this film in Bollywood?
This film will be sensational in Bollywood. I can say that because I am a visionary.
It’s a 10-hour story that has been compressed into two hours and people wonder about the other stuff. It can be made into a perfect Hindi movie.
But no one has approached me.
Do you watch Hindi movies?
I used to. When I was younger, I had a collection of more than 300 Bollywood films. I remember Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It is everyone’s favourite. I have seen most Shah Rukh Khan movies.
If Lion was to be remade in Hindi, who would you like to play you?
Shah Rukh Khan.
Who would you like in Rooney Mara’s role of your girlfriend?
Perhaps Deepika (Padukone). Is she very tall? She would be awesome.
Then there is also Priety Zinta.
Will you write more stories?
My next book would be a prequel, about the mothers and their past lives, how they became who they are and going on to adopting a child.
My biological mother is from Madhya Pradesh and my adopted mother is Polish Hungarian. They are oceans apart from each other.
Then there is Mrs Sood, who runs an orphanage (the character was played by Deepti Naval in Lion). She opened an adoption home for children to be adopted overseas.