Mumbai: His fascination for India apart from his previous work commitments have brought the Australian director to the country twice before. In town for the promotion of his upcoming film Lion, the director takes time off to chat about movies and why we could do with more films like Lunchbox and Monsoon Wedding. Edited exerpts:
How did the idea of making Lion come about?
I was at a film festival and had just finished a television series. The producers of the series had heard about Saroo and his journey. They told me that it is a great story. I read it and was amazed. It’s an incredible story!
How did the casting happen?
When I secured the rights to the story, the first thing I did was go to India to meet Saroo’s family. I wanted to explore his journey as much as possible. I met with his birth mother and adoptive mother, and that was an incredible experience. I spent a lot of time with Saroo, his families and visited almost every real location. Later I roped in a scriptwriter and started writing. Meanwhile, Dev came knocking at the door asking if a film is being made on Saroo’s life. If yes, he is looking for a role. One of the biggest challenges for me was to cast a kid — the younger Saroo. I had to find actors who do natural performances and Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Priyanka Bose just fit the roles. With Nicole (Kidman) it was kind of serendipitous. She read the script and fell in love with it. She has adopted kids too, so the story is very close to her heart.
How did you choose Sunny Pawar — there were so many kinds to choose from, weren’t there?
We auditioned about 100 kids in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, and then short listed about 100 of them and then zeroed in on Sunny. We kept the filmmaking very normal. It was very important for Sunny to feel like a part of us. When he was in my control, things were very smooth. He wasn’t even slightly naughty. He is a beautiful kid. I can’t work with naughty kids. (Laughs)
What do you think about international projects joining hands with Bollywood lately?
I don’t really have any opinion on this. I fell in love with the story and hence captured India. I feel we should tell universal stories. Though the story is set in India and Australia, I hope the film reaches everywhere. I am very excited about it. Sometimes we make films just for our people and it doesn’t reach to anyone.
Are you open to the idea of working with Bollywood actors ahead?
Well, I am not a Bollywood director. Bollywood is very unique in its own way. It is very rich, culture and language-wise. It’s not something that we understand. I loved Monsoon Wedding and Lunchbox because they had ‘real’ stories. I wish there are more films made like them. I wonder if there will be a shift in Bollywood in that sense.
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