The True Story Behind 'Lion' Doesn't Sound Real

It's officially Oscar movie season, and one new film that's getting a lot of awards buzz is Garth Davis' Lion. The film stars Dev Patel, who rose to fame playing the lead in 2009's Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, as Saroo Brierley, an Indian-born Australian man trying to locate his birth mother by using Google Earth and going off his foggy memories from before he got lost and ended up in an orphanage at 5 years old. It may sound pretty unbelievable, but actually, Lion is based on a true story.

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The movie is based upon a book by the real Saroo Brierley called A Long Way Home , which details the remarkable journey he took as a young man to find his birth mother. Brierley was born in Khandwah, India, to a severely impoverished family. He and his brother would have to beg at local train stations in order to get money for food. Then one night when he was 5 years old, Brierley boarded the wrong train, fell asleep, and ended up in Kolkata — nearly 1,000 miles form his home. He spent several days roaming the streets before someone found him and turned him over to authorities. He was then sent to an orphanage, and was soon adopted by an Australian couple, John and Sue Brierley.

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Brierley went on to have a regular Australian upbringing, but he never forgot his roots. As a young man, he began to use a then-new technology — Google Earth — to try and locate his hometown. Relying on his childhood memories, he followed the train tracks running out of Kolkata in the satellite images, eventually finding one that ended up at a station that sounded familiar: Burhanpur, the station where he boarded the fateful train that sent him away. From there, he was able to follow other train lines until he found one that led to what he recognized as his hometown, Khandwah, judging from the landmarks he could recall. After traveling to the town, Brierley asked the locals if they knew of anyone who had a son go missing two decades earlier. Eventually, he was pointed into the direction of his mother, where he was finally reunited with her after so many years.

Although the story depicted in Lion may sound unbelievable, it's absolutely true, and shows that sometimes miracles really do happen — at least when Google is involved.

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Images: The Weinstein Company