The remarkable story of an Indian man’s odyssey from Australia to find his mom in his homeland using Google Earth after a quarter-century is headed to the big screen.
Saroo Brierley was 4 years old when he jumped on a train in rural India and ended up 1,000 miles away in the eastern city of Kolkata, where he became a beggar before being adopted by an Australian couple and taken to Tasmania.
Brierley graduated from college and became a successful businessman, but he never forgot his native country and spent countless hours studying Google Earth to find his way back.
The Winston Co. bought the rights for the movie, to be called “Lion,” for $12 million at the Cannes Film Festival, Central European News reported.
The film, an adaptation of Brierley’s book “A Long Way Home,” will be directed by Garth Davis, and feature “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
Brierley said he rarely had enough to eat as a child and would often ride trains and beg with his brother. On a fateful day, he napped at a station and awoke to find he was alone.
“I opened my eyes and couldn’t see my brother, but I saw a train in front of me with the door open and for some reason I thought he was on board,” he said, CEN reported. “I ran over and jumped on the train just as the doors closed and it pulled out of the station, and it was only then that I realized he wasn’t there. I think you could say that split-second decision changed my life forever.”
He was later rescued and put in a juvenile home and then into an orphanage, where he was adopted and started his successful life as an Aussie — eventually deciding to pore over maps in his homesick quest.
“I traveled around a lot with my brothers so I had seen a lot of the area around the house,” he said. “I remembered landmarks. For example, there was a waterfall where we used to play and the dam. But I didn’t know the city or town’s name and finding a small neighborhood in a vast country proved to be nearly impossible.”
But he persisted with satellite images and explored the vast network of rail lines across India — using his well-honed memory to recall landmarks.
“Everything just started to match. So I traced a road back that I would follow back as a child, and before I knew it, I was looking at the suburb where I had grown up, and just on the right of it was the house I had grown up in. I couldn’t sleep for that whole night,” he said.
He finally embarked on his journey, but was stunned when he found the house in Khandwa, a small city in Madhya Pradesh, empty and locked.
“I just thought the worst, I thought perhaps everyone’s gone, my whole family’s died, they’ve passed away,” he said. “But lucky for me, this lady came out of a doorway holding a baby, and she said, ‘Can I help you?’ And I said to her, ‘My name is Saroo and these are my family members’ names.’ Another person comes in and I sort of revealed my mantra to them as well.”
After talking to several others, one said: “Now I’m going to take you to your mother.”
“She looked so much shorter than I remembered when I was a 4-year-old child,” he said. “But she walked forward, and I walked forward, and my emotions and tears and the chemical in my brain, you know, it was like a nuclear fusion.”
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