For Dev Patel, “Lion” wasn’t just another movie. For one thing, it earned him an Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor. For another, he got to learn something about humankind. The film relates the true story of Saroo Brierley, who at 5 was separated from his mother and brother, who lived in a remote, impoverished part of India. He wandered the streets of Kolkata until child services picked him up. He was soon adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, as a young man, he began the difficult quest of locating his missing family, eventually reuniting with his biological mother.
“Movies like this give you a good dose of perspective on what’s going on in the world,” Patel tells us. The actor plays the older version of Saroo, while Sunny Pawar plays the younger one. The “Slumdog Millionaire” alum talks to us about meeting the real Brierley, his own survival skills and the beauty of adoption.
What did you ask the real Saroo when you met him?
Personally, I was interested in finding out what was going on in his head during the process of finding his family. I was intrigued to know what prompted him to go look for them and whether it was therapeutic to go in search of his origins. He confessed that he used to get into his car after work and drive at full speed thinking about how to go in search of them. So it took three years until one day he just started the adventure.
What impressed you most about him?
The fact that he survived alone so many dangers as a child. I remember when I was a kid, I accompanied my mother to the supermarket and got lost for five minutes. Those five minutes seemed like five hours. It was a terrible feeling. Imagine what must have passed through the head of little Saroo. This is a survival story.
Adoption today is still a subject of debate around the world, even more so when it comes to same-sex couples, what do you think about that?
I think adoption is really beautiful, regardless of the sexual preferences or the skin color of people. When I started doing the research to interpret the character, I had the opportunity to go to an adoption center for disabled children and I could see the amount of North American and Australian families with these characteristics that are willing to take in a child. I was very touched by the fact that a family could give such a chance to a child. It is very beautiful.