Sunny Pawar Is Giant Talent.
Dev Patel Is Damp Squib.
The movie is based on the book A Long Journey Home, by Saroo Brierley. It is a tale of a boy who gets lost in Calcutta and is adopted by an Australian couple, a boy who does not forget his mother and finds his way back home, twenty five years later. The little boy Saroo is simply brilliant. A pity he grows up to be Dev Patel.
This movie is brilliant because of a little boy called Sunny Pawar. He plays little five year old Saroo who steals coal from trains with his older brother and looks after his sister Shakila when his mum goes out to work at a stone quarry. One day Saroo insists on accompanying his older brother Guddu. You will lose your heart to him when you see him show how strong he is to his brother Guddu. His brother cannot resist, and neither will you. You also know that he’s only five years old, and even though fearless, his falling asleep is only natural. His brother tells him to wait. But when the child wakes up, disoriented, he climbs into a train, and falls asleep again.
That decommissioned train hurtles through the country towards Calcutta. Little Saroo wakes up to terror in a scene which will go down in your experience as ‘unforgettable’. You feel his loneliness, you know he is all alone in a wrong train where everything is locked, the train is not going to stop anywhere and there is no use of shouting for Guddu or Ammi. The terror, the realization that he is all alone, and the determination to not give up is a lesson for any actor.
He lands in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and is a witness and an escapee from child kidnappers, people who brush him off roughly, even a couple who seems kind to him but may be child traffickers (Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannistha Chatterjee in a delightful cameo). A stranger takes pity on him and takes him to the police in order to help him find his home. But the five year old boy from Madhya Pradesh is unable to communicate because all that he remembers of his home is that it is in Ganesh Talay.
The police put out an ad in the newspaper and keep Saroo in a remand home. Life there is not easy at all, Kids are often raped and lose their sense of balance. The adoption agencies do good work there (Deepti Naval appears in a sweet cameo) and even though you wonder that the kids may be losing so much more when adopted, we are relieved that Saroo is adopted by a kind Australian couple Sue (Nicole Kidman in a very interesting empathetic role) and John Brierley. Just when Saroo begins to adapt to his new parents and his new home, they adopt one more kid from India. This time the Brierleys are not lucky. The child is traumatised and violent.
Alas, the adorable little boy grows up to Dev Patel. He’s so unkempt and entitled, you either want to give him a haircut and a pressure wash or just a couple of hard slaps to knock some sense into him. The book is so sensitively written when it comes to his inner battle for identity, that it is heartbreaking to watch Dev Patel go sullen and annoying attempting to look like he is fighting his inner demons. You wonder why his girlfriend tolerates his nonsense, and why his friends help him by telling him about Google Earth. Not just that, he is rude to his parents too and his vulnerable brother who has learnt to stay away. He does find his home and the generous parents that they are, John and Sue help him get back to find his lost family.
Things have not changed in Ganesh Talay. His brother is no more, but his mother, now older, has not given up her search for her lost son. Priyanka Bose, who plays Saroo’s mother is so brilliant, you want to stand up and applaud to see her recognise her long, lost son once again.
It’s a pity that Hollywood could not find a better ‘brown’ actor. Dev Patel’s limitations show up strongly because little Sunny Pawar is so phenomenally talented. Dev Patel may even get win an Oscar. Not because of his talent, but because the character he portrays is so heroic.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)