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Dev Patel’s Lion gains Oscar buzz after Toronto screenings

The Indo-Australian film received a standing ovation at Canada’s premier film festival.

Sonal Pandya

Director Garth Davis’s directorial debut Lion, starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman, had its world premiere last weekend to a glorious reception at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The emotional story of an Indian boy, Saroo Brierly, who gets separated from his family and eventually gets adopted by an Australian couple struck a chord with the audience.

The film is being hailed as a return to form for Patel who was one of the breakout stars of Danny Boyle’s against-the-odds film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which picked up eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Since then, Patel has worked on prestigious projects on television (The Newsroom)  and film (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) but mostly with an ensemble cast.

In Lion, reviewers have noted his mastery of the difficult Australian accent, calling him a “resilient soul” of the film amongst a cast that includes several Indian artistes as well. The film is also starting to invite Oscar buzz for its producers Weinstein Company whose last Best Picture win was in 2011 with The Artist.

Peter Debruge, chief film critic at Variety, writes, “After Lion makes its millions, someone else can make a movie about how Google Earth saved the struggling indie distributor. And it can end with a shot of Harvey Weinstein, Saroo Brierley (the Lion himself), and director Garth Davis giving one another a big group hug at the Oscars.”

Even Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, a regular awards prognosticator, suggested that the film will bring its producer Harvey Weinstein back to the Oscar stage after the prolonged standing ovation it received at its world premiere on Saturday. He writes, “A picture nom seems well within reach, and, if everything goes Harvey's way, supporting noms for Patel and Kidman are possible, too.”

The Guardian review praised the film for showing the “complications of a mixed racial identity” on screen. Lion also stars Indian artistes Priyanka Bose (as Saroo’s mother), Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Deepti Naval in important roles.